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Then Analysis

Author: Poetry of Philip Levine Type: Poetry Views: 67

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A solitary apartment house, the last onebefore the boulevard ends and a dusty roadwinds its slow way out of town. On the third floorthrough the dusty windows Karen beholdsthe elegant couples walking arm in armin the public park. It is Saturday afternoon,and she is waiting for a particular young manwhose name I cannot now recall, if namehe ever had. She runs the thumb of her left handacross her finger tips and feels the little tagsof flesh the needle made that morning at workand wonders if he will feel them. She loves her work,the unspooling of the wide burgundy ribbonsthat tumble across her lap, the delicate laces,the heavy felts for winter, buried now that springis rising in the trees. She recalls a black hathidden in a deep drawer in the back of the shop.She made it in February when the snows piledas high as her waist, and the river stopped at noon,and she thought she would die. She had tried it on,a small, close-fitting cap, almost nothing,pinned down at front and back. Her hair tumbledout at the sides in dark rags. When she turnedit around, the black felt cupped her foreheadperfectly, the teal feathers trailing out behind,twin cool jets of flame. Suddenly he is here.As she goes to the door, the dark hat falls backinto the closed drawer of memory to waituntil the trees are bare and the days shut downabruptly at five. They touch, cheek to cheek,and only there, both bodies stiffly arched apart.As she draws her white gloves on, she can smellthe heat rising from his heavy laundered shirt,she can almost feel the weight of the ironhissing across the collar. It's cool out, he says,cooler than she thinks. There are tiny dotsof perspiration below his hairline. What a dayfor strolling in the park! Refusing the chairby the window, he seems to have no time,as though this day were passing forever,although it is barely after two of a late Mayafternoon a whole year before the modern era.Of course she'll take a jacket, she tells him,of course she was planning to, and she opens her hands,the fingers spread wide to indicate the enormityof his folly, for she has on only a blouse,protection against nothing. In the bedroomshe considers a hat, something dull and properas a rebuke, but shaking out her glowing hairshe decides against it. The jacket is there,the arms spread out on the bed, the armsof a dressed doll or a soldier at attentionor a boy modelling his first suit, my own armswhen at six I stood beside my sister waitingto be photographed. She removes her glovesto feel her balled left hand pass through the silkof the lining, and then her right, fingers open.As she buttons herself in, she watchesa slow wind moving through the planted fieldsbehind the building. She stops and stares.What was that dark shape she saw a momenttrembling between the sheaves? The sky lowers,the small fat cypresses by the fields' edgepart, and something is going. Is that the wayshe too must take? The world blurs before her eyesor her sight is failing. I cannot take her hand,then or now, and lead her to a resting placewhere our love matters. She stands frozenbefore the twenty-third summer of her life,someone I know, someone I will always know.


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