April 2: Philip Levine's "Unholy Saturday"

A return to childhood with Philip Levine, who is now in his eighties, and whose Detroit, before, during, and after the Second World War, has become a classic, frequently revisited setting in American poetry.

Unholy Saturday

Three boys down by the river
search for crawdads. One has
hammered a spear from a
curtain rod, and head down,
jeans rolled up to his knees, wades
against the river’s current.
Barely seven, he’s the most
determined. He’ll go home
hours from now with nothing
to show for his efforts except
dirt and sweat and that residue
he’s unaware of sifting
down from a distant sky
and glinting like threads
of mica across his shoulders.
In the distance someone keeps
calling the names of the brothers
in the same order over
and over, but they don’t hear
what with the riverbank gorged
with blue weed patches and all
the birds in hiding. Perhaps no
one is calling and it’s only
the voices of the air as
the late light of June hangs on
in the cottonwoods before
the dark whispers the last word.

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