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).