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The Red Shirt Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 13

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If I gave 5 birds

each 4 eyes

I would be blind

unto the 3rd

generation, if I

gave no one a word

for a day

and let the day

grow into a week

and the week sleep

until it was

half of my life

could I come home

to my father

one dark night?

On Sundays an odd light

grows on the bed

where I have lived

this half of my life

alight that begins

with the eyes

blinding first one

and then both

until at last

even the worn candles

in the flower box

lay down their heads.

Therefore I have come

to this red shirt

with its faultless row

of dark buttons, 7

by my count, as dark

as blood that poured

over my lips

when the first word

of hope jumped

and became a cry

of birds calling

for their wings,

a cry of new birds.

This is the red shirt

Adam gave to the Angel

of Death when he asked

for a son, this

is the flag Moses

waved 5 times

above his head

as he stumbled

down the waves

of the mountainous sea

bearing the Tables of 10,

this is the small cloth

mother put in

my lunch box

with bread and water.

This is my red shirt

in which I go to meet

you, Father of the Sea,

in which I will say

the poem I learned

from the mice. A row

of faultless buttons,

each one 10 years

and the eye of the bird

that beheld the first world

and the last, a field

of great rocks weeping,

and no one to see

me alone, day after

day, in my red shirt.


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