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An Extraordinary Morning
(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

An Extraordinary Morning

Poem By Philip Levine

Two young men—you just might call them boys—
waiting for the Woodward streetcar to get
them downtown. Yes, they’re tired, they’re also
dirty, and happy. Happy because they’ve
finished a short work week and if they’re not rich
they’re as close to rich as they’ll ever be
in this town. Are they truly brothers?
You could ask the husky one, the one
in the black jacket he fills to bursting;
he seems friendly enough, snapping
his fingers while he shakes his ass and sings
“Sweet Lorraine,” or if you’re put off
by his mocking tone ask the one leaning
against the locked door of Ruby’s Rib Shack,
the one whose eyelids flutter in time
with nothing. Tell him it’s crucial to know
if in truth this is brotherly love. He won’t
get angry, he’s too tired for anger,
too relieved to be here, he won’t even laugh
though he’ll find you silly. It’s Thursday,
maybe a holy day somewhere else, maybe
the Sabbath, but these two, neither devout
nor cynical, have no idea how to worship
except by doing what they’re doing,
singing a song about a woman they love
merely for her name, breathing in and out
the used and soiled air they wouldn’t know
how to live without, and by filling
the twin bodies they’ve disguised as filth.

User Rating: 2,9 / 5 ( 31 votes ) 7

Comments (7)

I enjoyed this poem until that last line- he made me happy people watching and then he brought me down and I didn't want to go all philosophic and realistic today.
Such an interesting write by Philip Levine...
It's a good read. But, somehow, I feel that even if there was only one character in the narrative, it would have made much difference. Thanks a lot.
Great poem written so brilliantly. Loved it. 10++
Being from New York City and of a similar generation to Levine, I relate to the two portraits he paints for us. The word pedestrian comes to mind for the material he presents to us, but that’s what I like about it, that’s the courage in it and the originality and brilliance of it. Being a devotional person, I notice, am drawn to, his words about no idea how to worship but to do what they’re doing. GK


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