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You Are You

By Philip Levine

'I am me.' Pessoa.

Once upon a time--How now can I begin
like that? It's June 30, 2000, it's morning
still cool although the murderous heat is waiting
impatiently in the high branches of the eucalyptus.
You shake your head no. Heat is an abstraction.
Those are four black crows, you insist, the same ones
I heard in my sleep last night and which were transformed
in the theater of dreams into two congressmen
proclaiming out of both sides of their mouths.

Let's get back to the weather. The four crows
are certainly there, though two have descended
from the tree to circle over a faded red Toyota
in the parking lot of the Fig Garden Lady's Association
as though it were part living animal, part vegetable,
instead of steel, plastic, rubber, glass, whatever.
It belongs to the middle-aged gardener in coveralls
who comes once a month to trim the hedges, to plant
fresh blooms beside the walkway, and to water the parking lot.

His first name is Italo. He has short, bristly gray hair
under his Giants' cap, and though he's lived in California
more than half his life he knows sunshine and water
will not make concrete blossom. Tomorrow the ladies
will gather, the older ones arriving in Lincolns and Caddies,
the younger ones in sleek imports. 'I've got my orders,' says Italo
shaking his head that's solidly balanced on wide shoulders.
'Once upon a time,' he told me back in 1982,
'I told them watering this was a waste of water.'

People do speak that way, they say what's on their minds
cogently and they do so without theatrical gestures
while holding a hose in one hand and a cigarette
in the other. That is the beauty of syntax, rhetoric,
of language itself. I am me. You are you.
The four crows have come to earth to stump about
the parked Toyota and peck for final truths or worms
while at last the sun clears the giant eucalyptus
to cast its shimmering welcome on the wet concrete.

From August, 2000