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The New World Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 12

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A man roams the streets with a basket

of freestone peaches hollering, "Peaches,

peaches, yellow freestone peaches for sale."

My grandfather in his prime could outshout

the Tigers of Wrath or the factory whistles

along the river. Hamtramck hungered

for yellow freestone peaches, downriver

wakened from a dream of work, Zug Island danced

into the bright day glad to be alive.

Full-figured women in their negligees

streamed into the streets from the dark doorways

to demand in Polish or Armenian

the ripened offerings of this new world.

Josef Prisckulnick out of Dubrovitsa

to Detroit by way of Ellis Island

raised himself regally to his full height

of five feet two and transacted until

the fruit was gone into those eager hands.

Thus would there be a letter sent across

an ocean and a continent, and thus

would Sadie waken to the news of wealth

without limit in the bright and distant land,

and thus bags were packed and she set sail

for America. Some of this is true.

The women were gaunt. All day the kids dug

in the back lots searching for anything.

The place was Russia with another name.

Joe was five feet two. Dubrovitsa burned

to gray ashes the west wind carried off,

then Rovno went, then the Dnieper turned to dust.

We sat around the table telling lies

while the late light filled an empty glass.

Bread, onions, the smell of burning butter,

small white potatoes we shared with no one

because the hour was wrong, the guest was late,

and this was Michigan in 1928.


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