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The Dead Analysis

Author: Poetry of Philip Levine Type: Poetry Views: 73

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A good man is seized by the police

and spirited away. Months later

someone brags that he shot him once

through the back of the head

with a Walther 7.65, and his life

ended just there. Those who loved

him go on searching the cafés

in the Barrio Chino or the bars

near the harbor. A comrade swears

he saw him at a distance buying

two kilos of oranges in the market

of San José and called out, "Andrés,

Andrés," but instead of turning

to a man he'd known since child-

hood and opening his great arms

wide, he scurried off, the oranges

tumbling out of the damp sack, one

after another, a short bright trail

left on the sidewalk to say,

Farewell! Farewell to what? I ask.

I asked then and I ask now. I first

heard the story fifty years ago;

it became part of the mythology I

hauled with me from one graveyard

to another, this belief in the power

of my yearning. The dead are every-where, crowding the narrow streets

that jut out from the wide boulevard

on which we take our morning walk.

They stand in the cold shadows

of men and women come to sell

themselves to anyone, they stride

along beside me and stop when I

stop to admire the bright garlands

or the little pyramids of fruit,

they reach a hand out to give

money or to take change, they say

"Good morning" or "Thank you," they

turn with me and retrace my steps

back to the bare little room I'vecome to call home. Patiently,

they stand beside me staring out

over the soiled roofs of the world

until the light fades and we are

all one or no one. They ask for

so little, a prayer now and then,

a toast to their health which is

our health, a few lies no one reads

incised on a dull plaque between

a pharmacy and a sports store,

the least little daily miracle.


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