Take this quiet woman, she has been standing before a polishing wheel for over three hours, and she lacks twenty minutes before she can take a lunch break. Is she a woman? Consider the arms as they press the long brass tube against the buffer, they are striated along the triceps, the three heads of which clearly show. Consider the fine dusting of dark down above the upper lip, and the beads of sweat that run from under the red kerchief across the brow and are wiped away with a blackening wrist band in one odd motion a child might make to say No! No! You must come closer to find out, you must hang your tie and jacket in one of the lockers in favor of a black smock, you must be prepared to spend shift after shift hauling off the metal trays of stock, bowing first, knees bent for a purchase, then lifting with a gasp, the first word of tenderness between the two of you, then you must bring new trays of dull unpolished tubes. You must feed her, as they say in the language of the place. Make no mistake, the place has a language, and if by some luck the power were cut, the wheel slowed to a stop so that you suddenly saw it was not a solid object but so many separate bristles forming in motion a perfect circle, she would turn to you and say, "Why?" Not the old why of why must I spend five nights a week? Just, "Why?" Even if by some magic you knew, you wouldn't dare speak for fear of her laughter, which now you have anyway as she places the five tapering fingers of her filthy hand on the arm of your white shirt to mark you for your own, now and forever.
Philip Levine - 1928-2015
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.