Friday, December 12, 2008

Drum by Philip Levine

Levine, who has long celebrated the working class in his poetry, uses thick, palpable imagery to bring this scene to life. In the third stanza, he conflates the blue-collar with the classical for a powerful ending.


Drum

Leo's Tool & Die, 1950

In the early morning before the shop
opens, men standing out in the yard
on pine planks over the umber mud.
The oil drum, squat, brooding, brimmed
with metal scraps, three-armed crosses,
silver shavings whitened with milky oil,
drill bits bitten off. The light diamonds
last night's rain; inside a buzzer purrs.
The overhead door stammers upward
to reveal the scene of our day.

We sit
for lunch on crates before the open door.
Bobeck, the boss's nephew, squats to hug
the overflowing drum, gasps and lifts. Rain
comes down in sheets staining his gun-metal
covert suit. A stake truck sloshes off
as the sun returns through a low sky.
By four the office help has driven off. We
sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside
for a final smoke. The great door crashes
down at last.

In the darkness the scents
of mint, apples, asters. In the darkness
this could be a Carthaginian outpost sent
to guard the waters of the West, those mounds
could be elephants at rest, the acrid half light
the haze of stars striking armor if stars were out.
On the galvanized tin roof the tunes of sudden rain.
The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan,
the one we waited for, shows seven hills
of scraped earth topped with crab grass,
weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening
at the exact center of the modern world.


Philip Levine, born in Detroit, Michigan in 1928, has written sixteen books of poetry. He lives in Fresno, California and New York City, where he currently teaches at NYU.

12 Comments:

Blogger ginger said...

interesting. you not only get some good imagery, but you can hear the scene as well. it brought to mind the industrial sounds in allentown by billy joel. the break in the third stanza reminded me of haiku...funny strange (not funny haha).

12:26 AM  
Blogger Poetgrrl said...

Wow. I don't often comment on the poems, they affect me differently, but this one just made me say "Wow." Thank you for posting that one. I'll definitely read more Philip Levine.

9:34 PM  
Blogger The Wandering Gypsy said...

This was an awesome poem. Beautiful imagery. Do drop by my blog if you get the time :)

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Anonymous sababoy said...

In new location of my life, it's taken even a long time, I miss my nature, my house, my mother, my father, my tyrant neighbors, my silent streets, my fields waiting for spring and you.

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Blogger robyn blaikie collins said...

makes me want to go outside for a group smoke.

really evocative about things i didnt' know i had passion for.

nice choice

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