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Coming Close Analysis

Author: Poetry of Philip Levine Type: Poetry Views: 179

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What Work Is1991Take this quiet woman, she has been

standing before a polishing wheel

for over three hours, and she lacks

twenty minutes before she can take

a lunch break.Is she a woman?

Consider the arms as they press

the long brass tube against the buffer,

they are striated along the triceps,

the three heads of which clearly show.

Consider the fine dusting of dark down

above the upper lip, and the beads

of sweat that run from under the red

kerchief across the brow and are wiped

away with a blackening wrist band

in one odd motion a child might make

to say No! No! You must come closer

to find out, you must hang your tie

and jacket in one of the lockers

in favor of a black smock, you must

be prepared to spend shift after shift

hauling off the metal trays of stock,

bowing first, knees bent for a purchase,then lifting with a gasp, the first wordof tenderness between the two of you,

then you must bring new trays of dull

unpolished tubes.You must feed her,

as they say in the language of the place.

Make no mistake, the place has a language,

and if by some luck the power were cut,

the wheel slowed to a stop so that you

suddenly saw it was not a solid object

but so many separate bristles forming

in motion a perfect circle, she would turn

to you and say, "Why?" Not the old why

of why must I spend five nights a week?

Just, "Why?" Even if by some magicyou knew, you wouldn't dare speak

for fear of her laughter, which now

you have anyway as she places the five

tapering fingers of her filthy hand

on the arm of your white shirt to mark

you for your own, now and forever.


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