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Picture Postcard From The Other World Analysis

Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 11

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Since I don't know who will be reading

this or even if it will be read, I must

invent someone on the other end

of eternity, a distant cousin laboring

under the same faint stars I labored

all those unnumbered years ago. I make you

like me in everything I can -- a man

or woman in middle years who having

lost whatever faiths he held goes on

with only the faith that even more

will be lost. Like me a wanderer,

someone with a taste for coastal towns

sparkling in the cold winter sun, boardwalks

without walkers, perfect beaches shrouded

in the dense fogs of December, morning cafes

before the second customer arrives,

the cats have been fed, and the proprietor

stops muttering into the cold dishwater.

I give you the gift of language, my gift

and no more, so that wherever you go

words fall around you meaning no more

than the full force of their making, and you

translate the clicking of teeth against

teeth and tongue as morning light spilling

into the enclosed squares of a white town,

breath drawn in and held as the ocean

when no one sees it, the waves still,

the fishing boats drift in a calm beyond sleep.

The gift of sleep, too, and the waking

from it day after day without knowing

why the small sunlit room with its single bed,

white counterpane going yellow, and bare floor

holds itself with such assurance

while the flaming nebulae of dust

swirl around you. And the sense not to ask.

Like me you rise immediately and sit

on the bed's edge and let whatever dream

of a childhood home or a rightful place

you had withdraw into the long shadows

of the tilted wardrobe and the one chair.

Before you've even washed your face you

see it on the bedoilied chiffonier -- there,

balanced precariously on the orange you bought

at yesterday's market and saved for now.

Someone entered soundlessly while you slept

and left you sleeping and left this postcard

from me and thought to close the door

with no more fuss than the moon makes.

There's your name in black ink in a hand

as familiar as your own and not

your own, and the address even you

didn't know you'd have an hour before

you got it. When you turn it over,

there it is, not the photo of a star,

or the bright sailboats your sister would

have chosen or the green urban meadows

my brother painted. What is it? It could be

another planet just after its birth

except that at the center the colors

are earth colors. It could be the cloud

that formed above the rivers of our blood,

the one that brought rain to a dry time

or took wine from a hungry one. It could

be my way of telling you that I too

burned and froze by turns and the face I

came to was more dirt than flame, it

could be the face I put on everything,

or it could be my way of saying

nothing and saying it perfectly.


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