Philip Levine. By Conan Schuster. Arrangement. Life Awards Explication/Literary terms Explication/Personal Analysis Critical Analysis . Life. Second of 3 sons Father owned a car business Mother was a book seller Father died at age 5 Face anti-Semitism (he was Jewish)
By Conan Schuster
“I saw that the people that I was working with…were voiceless in a way,”(Poetry Foundation)
“Nobody was speaking for them. And as young people will, you know, I took this foolish vow that I would speak for them and that’s what my life would be. And sure enough I’ve gone and done it. Or I’ve tried anyway…”(Poetry Foundation)
Seeing his mother coming home
he kneels behind a parked car,
one hand over his mouth
to still his breathing. She passes, climbs
the stairs, and again the street is his
after line break
Imagery- sense experience shown
Enjambment- thought continuing
after line break
We’re in an American city, Toledo, sometime in the last century, though
it could be Buffalo or Flint,
the places are the same except
for the names.
A boy playing in the street just wants a few more minutes outside so he hides behind a car to avoid detection. Levine than applies this typical scenario to the whole country.
At eight or nine,
even at eleven, kids are the same,
without an identity, without a soul,
things with bad teeth and bad clothes.
We could give them names, we could
name the mother Gertrude, and give her
a small office job typing bills of lading
eight hours a day five and a half
days a week.
Kids are young, and impressionable. They have fun and sometimes forget to brush their teeth. They don’t care how they look. They just want to have fun.
. Gertrude (which means:
“Spear of Strength”) works tirelessly to provide
for her children.
We could give her
dreams of marriage to the boss
who’s already married, but we
don’t because she loathes him.
It’s her son, Sol, she loves,
the one still hiding with one knee
down on the concrete drawing
the day’s last heat. He’s got feelings.
The mother hates her boss. However, she needs to have money to support her child. Her son, Sol(which means: “the sun”), sits on the concrete alone drawing. Ironic that he’s drawing the days last heat when his name means “sun”. I interrupt this as his child hood ending. Foreshadows his death.
Young as he is he can feel heat,
cold, pain, just as a dog would
and like a dog he’ll answer
to his name. Go ahead, call him,
“Hey, Solly, Solly boy, come here!”
He doesn’t bark, he doesn't’t sit,
he doesn’t beg or extend one paw
in a gesture of submission.
He accepts his whole name, even
as a kid he stands and faces us,
Sol is young, blind and without a path. He still responds like a dog, not old enough to have formed his own opinions completely. When put on the spot he doesn’tknowhow to respond. He just stands and looks.
Just as eleven years from now
he’ll stand and face his death
flaming toward him on a bridge-
head at Remagen
goes on typing mechanically
into the falling winter night.
In this scene Gertrude is reflecting on the death of her son and her life. Into the falling winter night implies a dark feeling that doesn't’t end. She is still falling and still typing about her regrets.
"Philip Levine." : The Poetry Foundation. Web. 13 May 2013.
"Biography of Philip Levine." Poemhunter. Web. 14 May 2013.