The Wandering Poets

by Philip Levine

As they return from their pilgrimage,
footsore and disgusted, only a few
wear jackets and ties. As usual
Gerald is the most emphatic: he stands
at the corner of Broadway and Spring
and demands that an angel descend
from heaven carrying a glass of tea,
sugared, with a little lemon and milk
not a big deal when you consider
how far he’s come without the least thanks.
It’s early April at the center
of the known world; somewhere tulips
nudge their way heavenward, forsythias
blaze until you have to look away.
How did we come to despise this life?
Somewhere an axe falls, somewhere a boy
hurls a rock, somewhere the answer
is waiting curled in the brown leaves
of a mountain oak. Gerald has fallen
to the sidewalk and the lunch crowds
step carefully over him; the lesser writers
scurry toward their cars or descend
into the subway to make their appointments.
It’s so quiet only you hear the poem
he’s polished all his life, delivered on
a froth of blood and meaning nothing.