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Philip Levine

Philip Levine

Philip Levine was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1928. He is the author of seventeen books of poetry, most recently News of the World (Knopf, 2009). His other poetry collections include The Simple Truth (1994), which won the Pulitzer Prize; What Work Is (1991), which won the National Book Award; New Selected Poems (1991); Ashes: Poems New and Old (1979), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award for Poetry. He has also published two collections of essays, The Bread of Time: Toward an Autobiography (1994) and So Ask (1997). Recently retired from teaching, he spends half his time in Frersno and half in Brooklyn.

Assembly

The various holy parts
of the body are presented
on a blue conveyor belt
that starts nowhere and runs
on and on without ever tiring,
as we would. All this before
assembly. The lungs,
the liver, the kidneys
(surprisingly shaped like
beans), the roof of the mouth,
the nape, followed
by the neck, the elbows
without arms, the sac. . .  One
could go on naming and
naming into the hidden dark
of the heart, but you get
the point or if you don't
you never will. Remember
at 18, brother, at Cadillac
Transmission how no one
knew what we were drilling
holes into or why except
of course for 2.85
an hour. That was after
the war when money answered
everything, and the life was
so innocent, or so we said
years later. The eyeballs,
the twin shins, the splints
for the shins, the nails
for the toes, the toes
for their nails, the stamen
for the rose, the thorns
arching upward with a beauty
all their own, the buds
hiding in the hard leaves
and curled up so tightly they  
can see absolutely nothing.

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