August 10, 2011

Poem in Honor of Philip Levine's Poet Laureatedness


You Would Not Exist

If I had eaten dinner
If he had not ordered tequila
If Philip Levine had not been invited to read
If your father had not caught up with me in the hallway,
If he had not asked, If I had not said yes,
said no, my boyfriend is waiting in his truck outside
If the boyfriend had not had a meeting
If Levine had not mentioned the apple of his eye
If I had not been the apple of my grandfather’s eye
If your father had not opened a Nalgene bottle full of black licorice,
and peeled an orange, there in the auditorium dark where we floated,
reeking of Cuervo and the fruit on our hands
If he had not ordered Russian apples in the bar, later,
toasted my grandfather, and argued some inane point to silence
If he had not brought me an apple, large and deep red,
waiting by the bike racks while students ran to class
and bells clanged
If we had not ditched English, rode our bikes
through Bidwell, rested under an oak
If I had not, nervous-talking, brought out my fervor
for the Spanish words fuego, incendio— blaze, arson—
If he had not asked, Which fire are you?

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Congratulations, Philip Levine! "You Would Not Exist" was first runner-up for the 2006 Many Mountains Moving poetry prize.

2 comments:

paula said...

Beautiful words, woman! Everything you write has such an elegant accessibility to it. It's lovely.

Patricia Caspers said...

Thanks, Paula! It's good to hear from you!