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At Bessemer Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 7

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19 years old and going nowhere,

I got a ride to Bessemer and walked

the night road toward Birmingham

passing dark groups of men cursing

the end of a week like every week.

Out of town I found a small grove

of trees, high narrow pines, and I

sat back against the trunk of one

as the first rains began slowly.

South, the lights of Bessemer glowed

as though a new sun rose there,

but it was midnight and another shift

tooled the rolling mills. I must

have slept awhile, for someone

else was there beside me. I could

see a cigarette's soft light,

and once a hand grazed mine, man

or woman's I never knew. Slowly

I could feel the darkness fill

my eyes and the dream that came was

of a bright world where sunlight

fell on the long even rows of houses

and I looked down from great height

at a burned world I believed

I never had to enter. When

the true sun rose I was stiff

and wet, and there beside me was

the small white proof that someone

rolled and smoked and left me there

unharmed, truly untouched.

A hundred yards off I could hear

cars on the highway. A life

was calling to be lived, but how

and why I had still to learn.


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