Fall 2004 • Vol. XXVI No. 4 Poetry |

My Father in the Wind

Even in the dark the wind blows. I hear it in the high branches of the great cedar humming its one tune. In the small room that is mine the dust grains refuse to speak although they know it all, for they contain the ashes of my father, being far older than time, and the singular pain of his father who took his own life and left his son no final word, only silence and an open door through which the boy—my father—discovered the unfamiliar humped shadow swinging in no wind. Orphaned, the boy did not sit down by the waters of the Dnieper to weep as a man might do in a sacred text, he did not curse God or howl or simply stand stunned by the bright sun's arrival on such a day or even beg a neighbor to cut down the body. He climbed a ladder, braced his legs against the top rung, and with a rusted saw and one hand guiding the blade, the other pulling through the golden bands of sisal, slowly severed whatever connected his father's body to its final act. You might well ask how I know

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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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