Philip Levine

No Buyers

Two books in Spanish
on the children of
the clouds, an electric
motor for a fan, and no
fan blade, three spotted
eggs, uncracked. Bend
down and look: the eggs
are almost new. They glow
like the just born or
the just dead, feel
the heat as it passes
through your hand. Three
perfect shapes a thousand 
sciences could not
improve, for sale to
anyone. A light snow
drifts down, perhaps
it’s only shards of
paper, falling from
city hall, perhaps it’s
light in tiny diamonds
meant to consecrate
the day or dirty it.
The keepers of this
shop—can we call them
shopkeepers, though in
the filthy air there’s
nothing here to keep
except their distance
and their stillness?—
are river people. You
can tell by the way
the lines swirl away
from their eyes and race
off in all directions,
you can tell by the way
the man squats and does
not spit. Underneath,
the BMT rumbles on its
way to an ocean these two
will never see again.
The street rocks; the man
and woman hold. Garter
and panty set bunched against
the cold, the black broken
teeth of an old comb,
a plastic, satin-lined
casket for fountain pens,
a dusting of snow or more
tired paper. All these
riches set out on a blanket
from Samarkand or Toledo
that bears in black
the outline of the great
bird beneath whose wings
we flew out of the fires
of morning. A bus hisses
past for the seventh time,
sighing. A cop stops and
talks to no one, and he
sighs too. The clouds go
on clawing overhead. Children
rise from the underground
or descend in streams from
the clouds. For a moment
there is music and then not.
Light drains from above and
runs like melted lead into
the open steaming vents.
Side by side these two stand
while the day passes or
an hour passes in the almost
new dark as the three eggs
hatch into smaller and newer
eggs and nobody buys.