Philip Levine


Dawn. I was just walking
back across the tracks
toward the loading docks
when I saw a kid climb
out of a boxcar, his blue
jacket trailing like a skirt,
and make for the fence. He’d
hoisted a wet wooden flat
of fresh fish on his right
shoulder, and he tottered
back and forth like someone
with one leg shorter than
the other. I took my glasses
off and wiped them on the tails
of my dirty shirt, and all
I could see were the smudges
of the men wakening one
at a time and reaching for
both the sky and the earth.
My brother-in-law Joseph,
the railroad cop, who talked
all day and all night of beer
and pussy, Joseph in his suit
shouting out my name, Pheeel!
Pheeel! waving a blue bandana
and pointing behind me to
where the kid cleared the fence
and the weak March sun
had topped the car barns,
to a pale, watery sky, wisps
of dirty smoke, and the day.