This week on the Influence: Philip Levine.
When I read the following poem to Ani she picked up on something I did not when I first read it four years earlier: that it takes place in Spain. This makes sense seeing as Phil Levine has spent much time in Spain and written often on the poets who suffered and survived in the Spanish Civil War.
Having herself spent time there, Ani spoke of the place in the poem as if she had been there, the way one does in the light of experience.
This is the world… Indeed!
What moves me still about the poem is the scope of human understanding, how much gets put into the poem, and yet it is only one man’s glimpse, as fleeting and unknowable even now.
The Music of Time – Philip Levine *
The young woman sewing
by the window hums a song
I don’t know; I hear only
a few bars, and when the trucks
barrel down the broken street
the music is lost. Before the darkness
leaks from the shadows of
the great Cathedral, I see her
once more at work and later
hear in the sudden silence
of nightfall wordless music rising
from her room. I put aside
my papers, wash, and dress
to eat at one of the seafood
places along the great avenues
near the port where later
the homeless will sleep. Then I
walk for hours in the Barrio
Chino passing the open
doors of tiny bars and caves
from which the voices of old men
bark out the stale anthems
of love’s defeat. “This is the world,”
I think, “this is what I came
in search of year’s ago.” Now I
can go back to my single room,
I can lie awake in the dark
rehearsing all the trivial events
of the day ahead, a day that begins
when the sun clears the dark spires
of someone’s God, and I waken
in a flood of dust rising from
nowhere and from nowhere comes
the actual voice of someone else.
* from Phil Levine’s News of the World.