May Day

Paperback | April 29, 2008

byPhillis Levin

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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.

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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, fr...

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.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:96 pages, 8.3 × 5.5 × 0.3 inPublished:April 29, 2008Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143113941

ISBN - 13:9780143113942

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BOY WITH A THORNLo Spinario(bronze, late first century BCE)A long day, a long run, a long roadAnd somewhere on it you felt a pang,Nothing more. A quiver of lightning,Nothing to stop for. Only now,As you sit on the stump of a blasted tree,Folding one leg over the other,Drawing it up until your ankleStrains against your knee, as you studyThe sole that is cradled in your hands—Only now do you notice a small hot roseBlushing under the skin, where a thornBroke into flesh. And you recallThat sudden twinge: a throb subsidingIn a wave, spurring you on past allThose ochre hills, daring you to keepA steady pace though you were tiredOf those hills, of pine after twisted pineCasting a net of needles in your path,Though a droning in your ears saidThe city would fall, that the warningYou carried would never arrive.Once you were caught in a blindingTorrent of rain, but the sky stayed blue,Every other patch of land was dry,And the air surrounding you sharpenedThe horizon, though whatever was in reachGrew obscure. Later, as you crossedA familiar field, your fingertipsStirring the tall grass, your limbsRemembering a power that seemed to flowFrom the overturning chalice of the sun,A surprising coldness seepedThrough your skin, and a sensationYou did not welcome entered in.You brushed it aside and it was gone,And you went on. But it didn't goAnywhere, it was inside you, blooming...It is easy to remove the thorn, nowThat you can rest, easy to miss the valleyYou fled, its flock of shadows grazingOn stone. But sometimes everythingRemains hidden, there is nothing moreThan a scene on an empty amphora,Nothing new, nothing worth noting,Until the speed of your body releasesThe resin in pine. If this is the first timeYou faltered in the middle of everything,It will not be the last. Today a thornIs the cause. Sooner or later,There will be other things to drawOut of yourself to recover againWho you are. It will hurt to pluck it out,But you will think nothing of it:See, you are barely wounded.Later you will long to be that boyWhose only regret was having to stopWithout wanting to, whose only careWas a path beaten in the dustUnder his feet: a place where somethingToo slight to avoid, too minorTo fear, too random to forseeInterrupted a journeyWritten in the whorls of your skin—As if your fate, anyone's fateCould be written or read.

Editorial Reviews

? Levin?s poems mediate repeatedly between heart and mind, faith and science, the domain of ideas (and words) and the physical world, setting us down inside a restless, relentless mind that, torn between these poles, strives continually against imbalance and fragmentation and for equipoise, harmony, wholeness.?
?Bruce Bawer, The Hudson Review