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Where We Live Now Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 9

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We live here because the houses

are clean, the lawns run

right to the street

and the streets run away.

No one walks here.

No one wakens at night or dies.

The cars sit open-eyed

in the driveways.

The lights are on all day.


At home forever, she has removed

her long foreign names

that stained her face like hair.

She smiles at you, and you think

tears will start from the corners

of her mouth. Such a look

of tenderness, you look away.

She's your sister. Quietly she says,

You're a shit, I'll get you for it.


Money's the same, he says.

He brings it home in white slabs

that smell like soap.

Throws them down

on the table as though

he didn't care.

The children hear

and come in from play glowing

like honey and so hungry.


With it all we have

such a talent for laughing.

We can laugh at anything.

And we forget no one.

She listens to mother

on the phone, and he remembers

the exact phrasing of a child's sorrows,

the oaths taken by bear and tiger

never to forgive.


On Sunday we're having a party.

The children are taken away

in a black Dodge, their faces erased

from the mirrors. Outside a scum

is forming on the afternoon.

A car parks but no one gets out.

Brother is loading the fridge.

Sister is polishing and spraying herself.

Today we're having a party.


For fun we talk about you.

Everything's better for being said.

That's a rule.

This is going to be some long night, she says.

How could you? How could you?

For the love of mother, he says.

There will be no dawn

until the laughing stops. Even the pines

are burning in the dark.


Why do you love me? he says.

Because. Because.

You're best to me, she purrs.

In the kitchen, in the closets,

behind the doors, above the toilets,

the calendars are eating it up.

One blackened one watches you

like another window. Why

are you listening? it says.


No one says, There's a war.

No one says, Children are burning.

No one says, Bizniz as usual.

But you have to take it all back.

You have to hunt through your socks

and dirty underwear

and crush each word. If you're serious

you have to sit in the corner

and eat ten new dollars. Eat'em.


Whose rifles are brooding

in the closet? What are

the bolts whispering

back and forth? And the pyramids

of ammunition, so many

hungry mouths to feed.

When you hide in bed

the revolver under the pillow

smiles and shows its teeth.


On the last night the children

waken from the same dream

of leaves burning.

Two girls in the dark

knowing there are no wolves

or bad men in the room.

Only electricity on the loose,

the television screaming at itself,

the dishwasher tearing its heart out.


We're going away. The house

is too warm. We disconnect

the telephone.

Bones, cans, broken dolls, bronzed shoes,

ground down to face powder. Burn

the toilet paper collected in the basement.

Take back the bottles.

The back stairs are raining glass.

Cancel the milk.


You may go now, says Cupboard.

I won't talk,

says Clock.

Your bag is black and waiting.

How can you leave your house?

The stove hunches its shoulders,

the kitchen table stares at the sky.

You're heaving yourself out in the snow

groping toward the front door.


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