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The Phone Call by Philip Levine

June 26, 1988

She calls Chicago, but no one is home. The operator asks for another number but still no one answers. Together they try twenty-one numbers, and at each no one is ever home. "Can I call Baltimore?" she asks. She can, but she knows no one in Baltimore, no one in St. Louis, Boston, Washington. She imagines herself standing before the glass wall high over Lake Shore Drive, the cars below fanning into the city. East she can see all the way to Gary and the great gray clouds of exhaustion rolling over the lake where her vision ends. This is where her brother lives. At such height there's nothing, no birds, no growing, no noise. She leans her sweating forehead against the cold glass, shudders, and puts down the receiver.

From "A Walk With Tom Jefferson" (Alfred A. Knopf: $16.95, cloth; $8.95, paper; 64 pp.). "Philip Levine was born in 1928 in Detroit," Knopf says, "and was formally educated there, at the public schools and at Wayne University. After a succession of stupid jobs, he left the city for good, living in various parts of the country before he settled in Fresno, California, where he now teaches." Among many poetry awards he has received, the most recent is the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for "distinguished poetic achievements," awarded in 1987 by Poetry magazine and The American Council for the Arts. "A Walk With Tom Jefferson" is a collection in four parts, with the long title poem constituting the entire fourth section. 1987 Philip Levine, by permission. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf Inc.

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