Philip Levine, 1928-2015

This Valentine’s Day, one of America’s greatest poets passed away. Rest in peace, Philip Levine. You will be missed.

The Way Down


On the way down

blue lupine at the roadside,

red bud scattered

down the mountain, tiny

white jump-ups hiding

under foot, the first push

of wild oats like froth

at the field’s edge. The wind blows

through everything, the crowned

peaks above us, the soft floor

of the valley below,

the humps of rock

walking down the world.


On the way down

from the trackless snow fields

where a blackbird

eyed me from

a solitary pine, knowing

I would go back the way

I came, shaking my head,

and the blue glitter of ice

was like the darkness

of winter nights, deepening

before it would change,

and the only voice

my own saying



Can you hear?

the air now says. I hold

my breath and listen

and a finger of dirt thaws,

a river drains

from a snow drop

and rages down

my cheeks, our father

the wind hums

a prayer through my mouth

and answers in the oat,

and now the tight rows of seed

bow to the earth

and hold on and hold on.

-Philip Levine, 1971

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