Blasting from Heaven

The little girl won’t eat her sandwich;
she lifts the bun and looks in, but the grey beef   
       coated with relish is always there.   
       Her mother says, “Do it for mother.”
Milk and relish and a hard bun that comes off   
       like a hat—a kid’s life is a cinch.

       And a mother’s life? “What can you do
with a man like that?” she asks the sleeping cook   
       and then the old Negro who won’t sit.   
       “He’s been out all night trying to get it.
I hope he gets it. What did he ever do
       but get it?” The Negro doesn’t look,

       though he looks like he’s been out all night
trying. Everyone’s been out all night trying.   
       Why else would we be drinking beer   
       at attention? If she were younger,
or if I were Prince Valiant, I would say that fate
       brought me here to quiet the crying,

       to sweeten the sandwich of the child,
to waken the cook, to stop the Negro from   
       bearing witness to the world. The dawn   
       still hasn’t come, and now we hear
the 8 o’clock whistles blasting from heaven,   
       and with no morning the day is sold.

Philip Levine, “Blasting from Heaven” from Not This Pig. Copyright © 1968 by Philip Levine. Reprinted with permission by Wesleyan University Press.
Source: New Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)
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