A Poem for Philip Levine

By Christopher Rupley


I stand firmly next to the old shanty

building in town. The one next to

the water tower where Billy died when

we were kids. Slack-jawed faces never

looked so surprised when he fell like

a rock, and like a rock, hit with a thud!

His parents roamed the empty streets

looking for someone to blame. Their eyes

were cloudy, poignant even, and they would have

traded all their gold for a finger to point, for

guilt to be placed outside of themselves,

outside of their now sullen minds. I found my shadow

a few paces ahead of me, perching itself

on the peeling white skin of

the rigid, cracking shed that still stinks of death.

It does to me anyway.

I turned my attention to the top of the tower,

to the handcrafted railing above the flimsy floor from

which he fell, and I couldn’t help but wonder…

Am I next? Aren’t we all next?


(Philip Levine passed away on February 14, 2015 of pancreatic and liver cancer. He was poet laureate in the U.S. from 2011-2012. His style was like none other, and he will remain an inspiration to working-class people all over the world for all time. This poem is inspired by his life and style, and in no way does justice to his work. It is simply a respectful scribble in honor of his contribution to our craft – poetry).


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