Saturday, May 6, 2017

Belle Isle, 1949 by Philip Levine

Belle Isle, 1949

We stripped in the first warm spring night 
and ran down into the Detroit River 
to baptize ourselves in the brine 
of car parts, dead fish, stolen bicycles, 
melted snow. I remember going under 
hand in hand with a Polish highschool girl 
I’d never seen before, and the cries 
our breath made caught at the same time 
on the cold, and rising through the layers 
of darkness into the final moonless atmosphere 
that was this world, the girl breaking 
the surface after me and swimming out 
on the starless waters towards the lights 
of Jefferson Ave. and the stacks 
of the old stove factory unwinking. 
Turning at last to see no island at all 
but a perfect calm dark as far 
as there was sight, and then a light 
and another riding low out ahead 
to bring us home, ore boats maybe, or smokers 
walking alone. Back panting 
to the gray coarse beach we didn’t dare 
fall on, the damp piles of clothes, 
and dressing side by side in silence 
to go back where we came from.


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