>I don’t often use this space to talk at length about Me, or My Self, or any given I, nor do I often use it to talk at length about much of anything other than music. But I’ll let today be a brief excursion.
One of my favorite American writers is a poet named Phillip Levine. He grew up in Detroit and made a name for himself writing beautifully about the American working class. In a medium that remains preoccupied with wealth, fame, and privelage, his portrait of blue collar America–written within its language–is unassailably poetic.
This is a poem he wrote on his own birthday (originally January 10, 1928). I read it every year on mine.
“Let Me Begin Again,” by Phil Levine
Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly and changes nothing. Let
me go back to land after a lifetime
of going nowhere. This time lodged
in the feathers of some scavenging gull
white above the black ship that docks
and broods upon the oily waters of
your harbor. This leaking freighter
has brought a hold full of hayforks
from Spain, great jeroboams of dark
Algerian wine and quill pens that can’t
write English. The sailors have stumbled
off toward the bars or the bright houses.
The captain closes his log and falls asleep.
1/10’28. Tonight I shall enter my life
after being at sea for ages, quietly,
in a hospital named for an automobile.
The one child of millions of children
who has flown alone by the stars
above the black wastes of moonless waters
that stretched forever, who has turned
golden in the full sun of a new day.
A tiny wise child who this time will love
his life because it is like no other.
23 going on 16,