“The Music of Time” by Philip Levine

Philip Levine


The young woman sewing by the window
hums a song I don’t know; I hear only
a few bars, and when the trucks barrel down
the broken walkway between our buildings
the music is lost. Before the darkness
leaks from the shadows of the great cathedral
I think I see her at work and later hear
in the sudden silence of nightfall wordless
music rising from her room. I put aside
my papers, wash, and dress to go out.
I have a small dinner at one of the cafes
along the great avenues near the port
where the homeless sleep. Later I walk
for hours in the Barrio Chino passing
the open doors of tiny bars and caves
from which the voices of old men
bark out the stale anthems
of love’s defeat. “This is the world,”
I think, “this is what I came
in search of years ago.” Now I can go
back to my single room, I can lie
awake in the dark and rehearse
all the trivial events of the day ahead,
a day that begins when the sun clears
the dark spires of someone’s God, and I
waken in a flood of dust rising
from nowhere and from nowhere comes
the actual voice of someone else.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002

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