Spring 1999 • Vol. XXI No. 2 PoetryApril 1, 1999 |

If You Are Here

Two women walk side by side at dawnalong the canal bank. July, '96.The sun has cleared the eastern mountains.The tall woman's your sister, the other your second wife. They have a common bondyou thought was you, but it's your children,the one saved, the one lost. Your sister stopsto peer down into the running waters as though she'd caught a hint of somethingmoving beneath the surface. Since you diedshe has these moments when a dark shapelike a shadowed cloud under water suggests a presence she can't explain.Your widow stands waiting in silence:she's seen this before, she's even knownsomething similar, usually at night when she is sure she hears a car stopin the drive and throws on her old robeto go to the door to welcome … Who?Or what? Let's go back to the dawn walk. A cool wind is blowing down the valleysuggesting rain, so rare in summer.The two women, who have been kneeling,rise as one until your sister loses her balance a moment and reaches outto take the offer

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Philip Levine (1928-2015) won the National Book Award in 1991 with What Work Is; in 1995, the Pulitzer with The Simple Truth. His final poetry collection, The Last Shift (Alfred A. Knopf), as well as a collection of essays and other writings, My Lost Poets: A Life in Poetry (Alfred A. Knopf), were published posthumously in 2016. Levine was the poet laureate of the United States from 2011-2012.

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