PENNSYLVANIA PASTORAL

by Philip Levine. The only reason it came to mind was donna r’s description [Issue #1, Nov. 9] of the Edward Hopper exhibit, which we will attend soon in Paris. When I first read this poem by Philip Levine, I immediately saw the last nine lines as a Hopper painting. I’m not sure how the Internet will hold the poetic lines as written, but here goes. . . .
Pennsylvania Pastoral
The car stops, not because
the driver decided they’d gone
far enough or because the woman
said, “I’m sick” or the boy
had to pee.  It simply stopped
because it had to, and when the
three get out and he pops
the hood they discover the fan
belt has vanished and the engine
shut down, wisely.  It could
be worse, it could always be
worse — a cylinder could seize
for no foreseeable reason and send
them into irreversible debt.
Cars are, after all, only
machines and this one —
a ’48 Pontiac 6 — is
aged and whimsical  It could
be much worse — the Mohave
in mid-July with no shade
in sight or northern Ontario
in winter, the snow already burning
the backs of Father’s hands and
freighting Mother’s lashes.  They’ve
stalled descending into a gully
in rural Pennsylvania, a quiet
place of maples leafing out,
a place with its own creek
high in its banks and beyond
the creek a filling station,
its lights still on after dawn,
the red and green pumps ready to
give, and someone there, half-awake.
           –Philip Levine
–jane bergman

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