A sensuous and musical new collection from acclaimed poet Phillis Levin
May Day is a work of a visionary imagination. In tones playful and celebratory, in gestures both intimate and international, Levin’s poems explore how tenderness and violence change our lives. From a flood overtaking the Prague zoo to the joy of a maypole dance, from a mural of the Trojan War in a Greek diner in New York to the “noiseless explosions” of time in the opening of a flower, these poems are rhapsodies of the senses and the intellect, disclosing new thresholds of meaning.
About the Author
Phillis Levin is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. THE NEA grant was awarded in 2007.
Read an Excerpt
BOY WITH A THORN
A long day, a long run, a long road And somewhere on it you felt a pang,
Nothing to stop for. Only now,
Drawing it up until your ankle Strains against your knee, as you study The sole that is cradled in your hands—
Only now do you notice a small hot rose Blushing under the skin, where a thorn Broke into flesh. And you recall
That sudden twinge: a throb subsiding In a wave, spurring you on past all Those ochre hills, daring you to keep
A steady pace though you were tired Of those hills, of pine after twisted pine Casting a net of needles in your path,
Though a droning in your ears said The city would fall, that the warning You carried would never arrive.
Once you were caught in a blinding Torrent of rain, but the sky stayed blue,
And the air surrounding you sharpened The horizon, though whatever was in reach Grew obscure. Later, as you crossed
A familiar field, your fingertips Stirring the tall grass, your limbs Remembering a power that seemed to flow
From the overturning chalice of the sun,
You did not welcome entered in.
Anywhere, it was inside you, blooming...
You fled, its flock of shadows grazing On stone. But sometimes everything Remains hidden, there is nothing more
Than a scene on an empty amphora,
The resin in pine. If this is the first time You faltered in the middle of everything,
Is the cause. Sooner or later,
Who you are. It will hurt to pluck it out,
Later you will long to be that boy Whose only regret was having to stop Without wanting to, whose only care
Was a path beaten in the dust Under his feet: a place where something Too slight to avoid, too minor
To fear, too random to forsee Interrupted a journey Written in the whorls of your skin—
As if your fate, anyone's fate Could be written or read.
Excerpted from "May Day"
Copyright © 2008 Phillis Levin.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.