And that subject matter provokes Levine's best poems. The recent "Drum" takes its subtitle from a job location: "Leo's Tool & Die, 1950." In the poem Levine describes the lives of the people who work there with him, who "sweep, wash up, punch out, collect outside / for a final smoke." At the end even this small job shot finds an almost mythic connection:
| The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan, |
the one we waited for, shows seven hills
of scraped earth topped with crab grass,
weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening
at the exact center of the modern world.
Philip Levine reads from his poems at the Michigan League on Tuesday, October 8.
[Originally published in October, 2002.]