The Pinch Journal is proud to present the following poem by Pulitzer Prize winning author Philip Levine (1928 -2015) as a tribute to his work and his memory.
Originally published in the Spring 1987 issue of The Memphis State Review, Searching for Us by Philip Levine is a poignant glance at the universal images that make up a family's memories.
Two ten-inch phonograph records, Bluebirds
going white, that won't give up their music.
My uncle's perfect clothbound book
that opened the secret of electric growth.
My mother's gap-toothed tortoise combs.
Her opera glasses. Her black and white
artistic snapshots taken on the August '36
return trip on the Normandy. She titled
this one "Sunset at Sea" and claimed
it was only a shadow of what took place
in color. My father's Victoria Cross
that he brought back from an automobile parts
convention. His white gold pocket watch,
a Howard, that runs and stops and runs
to keep his time. His naturalization papers
claiming he was born in 1898
in Poland, without a mention of his years
at war. My brother's grade school drawings
of Spitfires and ME 109's,
his "Withdrawl from Dunkirk," the beach
crisscrossed with small black lines
that could be abandoned arms or the arms
of boys hugging the earth. A white flower.
Two dusty maple leaves. A blank postcard
without a stamp. My stillborn sister's
wish to mother a child, to breathe
the stained air that blows in at dusk
from the parking lots, to walk with us
on Sunday afternoons. Your finger prints
on the final application for release.
A bitten fountain pen, a dry stamp pad.
Two clear drops of fluid that catch
and hold the artificial light, that glow
with their own light when that's gone,
as eyes in stories are said to do.
Now in the dark they could be you,
they could be me, they could be anyone.