Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Day 945: The Whole Soul

 'I write what's given me to write.' 
~ Philip Levine, 1928-2015

RIP Philip Levine, former American Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prizewinner, who died on Saturday. His poem 'The Whole Soul' fits neatly into today - Ash Wednesday's - discourse.


The Whole Soul - Philip Levine

Is it long as a noodle
or fat as an egg? Is it
lumpy like a potato or
ringed like an oak or an
onion and like the onion
the same as you go toward
the core? That would be
suitable, for is it not
the human core and the rest
meant either to keep it
warm or cold depending
on the season or just who
you're talking to, the rest
a means of getting it from
one place to another, for it
must go on two legs down
the stairs and out the front
door, it must greet the sun
with a sigh of pleasure as
it stands on the front porch
considering the day's agenda.
Whether to go straight ahead
passing through the ranch houses
of the rich, living rooms
panelled with a veneer of fake
Philippine mahogany and bedrooms
with ermined floors and tangled
seas of silk sheets, through
adobe walls and secret gardens
of sweet corn and marijuana
until it crosses several sets
of tracks, four freeways, and
a mountain range and faces
a great ocean each drop of
which is known and like
no other, each with its own
particular tang, one suitable
to bring forth the flavor
of a noodle, still another
when dried on an open palm,
sparkling and tiny, just right
for a bite of ripe tomato
or to incite a heavy tongue
that dragged across a brow
could utter the awful words,
"Oh, my love!" and mean them.
The more one considers
the more puzzling become
these shapes. I stare out
at the Pacific and wonder -
noodle, onion, lump, double
yolked egg on two legs,
a star as perfect as salt -
and my own shape a compound
of so many lengths, lumps,
and flat palms. And while I'm
here at the shore I bow to
take a few handfuls of water
which run between my fingers,
those poor noodles good for
holding nothing for long, and
I speak in a tongue hungering
for salt and water without salt,
I give a shape to the air going
out and the air coming in,
and the sea winds scatter it
like so many burning crystals
settling on the evening ocean.

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