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Male Timothy

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A Late Answer

Beyond that stand of firs
was a small clearing
where the woods ran out
of breath or the winds
beat them back. No one
was born there and no one
would be, but you could
bury a lonely man there
or an animal you didn't
want out for flies to eat.
As we passed under the trees
you were cold and took
my hand and felt a shiver
pass through me, but you
didn't let go. When you
spoke at last it was to ask
after my thoughts, but
just then we broke into light
so unexpected I had to close
my eyes and saw the fire
swimming there and had
such a vision of the end
of my life, the trees
turning to great flowers
of flame and the field ringed
with sword bearing angels.
I could say nothing,
but held on to your hand
and you to mine
both in the dream and in
that bare place where
the North Sea winds lashed
our faces with sudden spurts
of rain. Now, on the other side
of the world, years later,
I know the ant came here
believing he would rule
and he waits for the wren
to fall, the grass waits
blowing its breath
into the morning that rises
darkly on wet winds. Somewhere
the sea saves its tears
for the rising tide, somewhere
we'll leave the world weighing
no more than when we came,
and the answer will be
the same, your hand in mine,
mine in yours, in that clearing
where the angels come toward us
without laughter, without tears.

Philip Levine


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