The new grass rising in the hills,
the cows loitering in the morning chill,
a dozen or more old browns hidden
in the shadows of the cottonwoods
beside the streambed. I go higher
to where the road gives up and there's
only a faint path strewn with lupine
between the mountain oaks. I don't
ask myself what I'm looking for.
I didn't come for answers
to a place like this, I came to walk
on the earth, still cold, still silent.
Still ungiving, I've said to myself,
although it greets me with last year's
dead thistles and this year's
hard spines, early blooming
wild onions, the curling remains
of spider's cloth. What did I bring
to the dance? In my back pocket
a crushed letter from a woman
I've never met bearing bad news
I can do nothing about. So I wander
these woods half sightless while
a west wind picks up in the trees
clustered above. The pines make
a music like no other, rising and
falling like a distant surf at night
that calms the darkness before
first light. "Soughing" we call it, from
Old English, no less. How weightless
words are when nothing will do.
 
Originally appeared in The New Yorker, 2001. Copyright © 2001 by Philip Levine. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

A New Day by Philip Levine
A Story by Philip Levine
Everyone loves a story. Let's begin with a house
And the Trains Go On by Philip Levine
Coming Close by Philip Levine
Take this quiet woman, she has been
Drum by Philip Levine
In the early morning before the shop
M. Degas Teaches Art & Science at Durfee Intermediate School, Detroit 1942 by Philip Levine
On 52nd Street by Philip Levine
Down sat Bud, raised his hands,
Our Valley by Philip Levine
We don't see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August
The Two by Philip Levine
When he gets off work at Packard, they meet


Further Reading

Poems about Earth
Amethyst Beads
by Eavan Boland
Clonazepam
by Donald Dunbar
Earth Took of Earth
by Anonymous
Earth Your Dancing Place
by May Swenson
Elegy in Limestone
by CJ Evans
Fiddler Jones
by Edgar Lee Masters
Hamatreya
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
He Stood
by Aaron Shurin
Prologue of the Earthly Paradise
by William Morris
Sympathy
by Edith Franklin Wyatt
the earth is a living thing
by Lucille Clifton
The Earth Opens and Welcomes You
by Abdellatif Laâbi
To Earthward
by Robert Frost
[Toward the empty earth]
by Osip Mandelstam
Poems about Anonymity and Loneliness
"My True Love Hath My Heart and I Have His"
by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
79
by Joachim du Bellay
Don't Let Me Be Lonely [There was a time]
by Claudia Rankine
Acts of Mind
by Catherine Barnett
Alone
by Maya Angelou
Alone for a Week
by Jane Kenyon
Angel of Duluth [excerpt]
by Madelon Sprengnether
At a Window
by Carl Sandburg
Beyond the Pane
by Greg Hewett
Boston
by Aaron Smith
Danse Russe
by William Carlos Williams
Dear Lonely Animal,
by Oni Buchanan
Demeter in Paris
by Meghan O'Rourke
Donal Óg
by Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory
Drawing from Life
by Reginald Shepherd
Eating Alone
by Li-Young Lee
Found Poem
by Howard Nemerov
How I Am
by Jason Shinder
How the mind works still to be sure
by Jennifer Denrow
How to See Deer
by Philip Booth
I Am Much Too Alone in This World, Yet Not Alone
by Rainer Maria Rilke
I Am!
by John Clare
I'm Nobody! Who are you? (260)
by Emily Dickinson
Isolation: To Marguerite
by Matthew Arnold
Loneliness
by Trumbull Stickney
Mnemosyne
by Trumbull Stickney
Montparnasse
by Ernest Hemingway
Mountain Pines
by Robinson Jeffers
Museum
by Glyn Maxwell
Ode to Solitude
by Alexander Pope
On the Terrace
by Landis Everson
R.I.P., My Love
by Tory Dent
Sex
by Michael Ryan
Skunk Hour
by Robert Lowell
Song of Myself
by John Canaday
Song of Quietness
by Robinson Jeffers
Sonnet V
by Mahmoud Darwish
Sympathy
by Edith Franklin Wyatt
The Creation
by James Weldon Johnson
The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth
The Hermit Goes Up Attic
by Maxine Kumin
The Living Beauty
by W. B. Yeats
The Long Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T. S. Eliot
The Sleepers
by Walt Whitman
The Suicide
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
the suicide kid
by Charles Bukowski
The Whole World Is Gone
by Jennifer Grotz
This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Toro
by Sarah Gambito
WHERE?
by Kenneth Patchen
White Days
by Priscilla Becker
Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand
by Walt Whitman
Why Is the Color of Snow?
by Brenda Shaughnessy
Your Catfish Friend
by Richard Brautigan
Pockets
A Sock Is a Pocket for Your Toes [excerpt]
by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon
At the Playground, Singing for Psychiatric Outpatients
by Peter Everwine
At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina
by Jane Kenyon
Blankets of Bark
by Sherwin Bitsui
Broadway
by Mark Doty
Chaplinesque
by Hart Crane
Go Greyhound
by Bob Hicok
Inventing Father In Las Vegas
by Lynn Emanuel
Pockets
by Howard Nemerov
Regarding Chainsaws
by Hayden Carruth
The Waltz We Were Born For
by Walt McDonald
Two Countries
by Naomi Shihab Nye