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The Water's Chant Analysis



Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 16

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Seven years ago I went into

the High Sierras stunned by the desire

to die. For hours I stared into a clear

mountain stream that fell down

over speckled rocks, and then I

closed my eyes and prayed that when

I opened them I would be gone

and somewhere a purple and golden

thistle would overflow with light.

I had not prayed since I was a child

and at first I felt foolish saying

the name of God, and then it became

another word. All the while

I could hear the water's chant

below my voice. At last I opened

my eyes to the same place, my hands

cupped and I drank long from

the stream, and then turned for home

not even stopping to find the thistle

that blazed by my path.

                                       Since then

I have gone home to the city

of my birth and found it gone,

a gray and treeless one now in its place.

The one house I loved the most

simply missing in a row of houses,

the park where I napped on summer days

fenced and locked, the great shop

where we forged, a plane of rubble,

the old hurt faces turned away.

My brother was with me, thickened

by the years, but still my brother,

and when we embraced I felt the rough

cheek and his hand upon my back tapping

as though to tell me, I know! I know!

brother, I know!

                             Here in California

a new day begins. Full dull clouds ride

in from the sea, and this dry valley

calls out for rain. My brother has

risen hours ago and hobbled to the shower

and gone out into the city of death

to trade his life for nothing because

this is the world. I could pray now,

but not to die, for that will come one

day or another. I could pray for

his bad leg or my son John whose luck

is rotten, or for four new teeth, but

instead I watch my eucalyptus,

the giant in my front yard, bucking

and swaying in the wind and hear its

tidal roar. In the strange new light

the leaves overflow purple and gold,

and a fiery dust showers into the day.






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