American Culture · American Literature · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Excerpt · Fragment · Passage · Poetry

Philip Levine

Wherever you are now there is earth
somewhere beneath you waiting to take
the little you leave. This morning I rose
before dawn, dressed in the cold, washed
my face, ran a comb through my hair
and felt my skull underneath, unrelenting,
soon the home of nothing. The wind
that swirled the sand that day years ago
had a name that will outlast mine
by a thousand years, though made of air,
which is what I too shall become, hope-
fully, air that says quietly in your ear,
“I’m dust and memory, your two neighbors
on this cold star,” That wind, the Levante,
will howl through the sockets of my skull
to make a peculiar music. When you hear it,
remember it’s me, singing, gone but here,
warm still in the fire of your care.

— Philip Levine, from “Dust and Memory,” The Simple Truth (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995)

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