Many years ago, in our first garden, we planted two plum saplings in one hole. The yellow-fleshed one was called Howard's Miracle, the large purple-fleshed one was Elephant Heart. As they grew, s nurseryman told us that we would still need a pollinator, and gave us a branch from the Santa Clara plum. We performed a successful graft; grafting has a miraculous quality to it. Over the years we have had some nice plum harvests, although the trees are now failing and we are not always in California to give them the proper care. Still, they bloom! Plum blossoms have a particularly lovely dainty-yet-vigotous many-stamened quality. And the sky on this day was ever-so-blue!
A Sleepless Night
April, and the last of the plum blossoms
scatters on the black grass
before dawn. The sycamore, the lime,
the struck pine inhale
the first pale hints of sky.
An iron day,
I think, yet it will come
dazzling, the light
rise from the belly of leaves and pour
burning from the cups
The mockingbird squawks
from his perch, fidgets,
and settles back. The snail, awake
for good, trembles from his shell
and sets sail for China. My hand dances
in the memory of a million vanished stars.
A man has every place to lay his head.
Philip Levine, New Selected Poems, Kindle location 952.
Philip Levine is another of the poets that I heard read and speak in San Jose in the 1980s. What luck we had at that time! I remember how "present" he was and how squarely he looked at people, and listened, while he was talking to them. I have heard him praised by a dozen of poets who studied with him. Many of them have posted short remembrances tonight. Pancreatic cancer was not an easy way to die, and now he can rest; still I am saddened and returning to his poetry tonight.
The last line of A Sleepless Night makes a shift and causes one to pay a sharper attention! Notice that he has set it apart from the rest of the poem. It reminded me of the Bible verse below.
King James Bible. Luke 9:58
"And Jesus said unto him, foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests;
but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head."