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Black Stone On Top Of Nothing Analysis

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

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Still sober, César Vallejo comes home and finds a black ribbon

around the apartment building covering the front door.

He puts down his cane, removes his greasy fedora, and begins

to untangle the mess. His neighbors line up behind him

wondering what's going on. A middle-aged woman carrying

a loaf of fresh bread asks him to step aside so she

can enter, ascend the two steep flights to her apartment,

and begin the daily task of preparing lunch for her Monsieur.

Vallejo pretends he hears nothing or perhaps he truly

hears nothing so absorbed is he in this odd task consuming

his late morning. Did I forget to mention that no one else

can see the black ribbon or understand why his fingers

seem so intent on unraveling what is not there? Remember

when you were only six and on especially hot days you

would descend the shaky steps to the cellar hoping at first

that someone, perhaps your mother, would gradually

become aware of your absence and feel a sudden seizure

of anxiety or terror. Of course no one noticed. Mother

sat for hours beside the phone waiting, and now and then

gazed at summer sunlight blazing through the parlor curtains

while below, cool and alone, seated on the damp concrete

you watched the same sunlight filter through the rising dust

from the two high windows. Beside the furnace a spider

worked brilliantly downward from the burned-out, overhead bulb

with a purpose you at that age could still comprehend.

1937 would last only six more months. It was a Thursday.

Rain was promised but never arrived. The brown spider worked

with or without hope, though when the dusty sunlight caught

in the web you beheld a design so perfect it remained

in your memory as a model of meaning. César Vallejo

untangled the black ribbon no one else saw and climbed

to his attic apartment and gazed out at the sullen rooftops

stretching southward toward Spain where his heart died. I know this.

I've walked by the same building year after year in late evening

when the swallows were settling noiselessly in the few sparse trees

beside the unused canal. I've come when the winter snow

blinded the distant brooding sky. I've come just after dawn,

I've come in spring, in autumn, in rain, and he was never there.


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