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Among Children Analysis



Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 10

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I walk among the rows of bowed heads--

the children are sleeping through fourth grade

so as to be ready for what is ahead,

the monumental boredom of junior high

and the rush forward tearing their wings

loose and turning their eyes forever inward.

These are the children of Flint, their fathers

work at the spark plug factory or truck

bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs

to the widows of the suburbs. You can see

already how their backs have thickened,

how their small hands, soiled by pig iron,

leap and stutter even in dreams. I would like

to sit down among them and read slowly

from The Book of Job until the windows

pale and the teacher rises out of a milky sea

of industrial scum, her gowns streaming

with light, her foolish words transformed

into song, I would like to arm each one

with a quiver of arrows so that they might

rush like wind there where no battle rages

shouting among the trumpets, Hal Ha!

How dear the gift of laughter in the face

of the 8 hour day, the cold winter mornings

without coffee and oranges, the long lines

of mothers in old coats waiting silently

where the gates have closed. Ten years ago

I went among these same children, just born,

in the bright ward of the Sacred Heart and leaned

down to hear their breaths delivered that day,

burning with joy. There was such wonder

in their sleep, such purpose in their eyes

dosed against autumn, in their damp heads

blurred with the hair of ponds, and not one

turned against me or the light, not one

said, I am sick, I am tired, I will go home,

not one complained or drifted alone,

unloved, on the hardest day of their lives.

Eleven years from now they will become

the men and women of Flint or Paradise,

the majors of a minor town, and I

will be gone into smoke or memory,

so I bow to them here and whisper

all I know, all I will never know.






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