My Brother, the Artist, at Seven By Philip Levine

As a boy he played alone in the fields   
behind our block, six frame houses   
holding six immigrant families,   
the parents speaking only gibberish   
to their neighbors. Without the kids   
they couldn't say "Good morning" and be   
understood. Little wonder   
he learned early to speak to himself,   
to tell no one what truly mattered.   
How much can matter to a kid   
of seven? Everything. The whole world   
can be his. Just after dawn he sneaks   
out to hide in the wild, bleached grasses   
of August and pretends he's grown up,   
someone complete in himself without   
the need for anyone, a warrior   
from the ancient places our fathers   
fled years before, those magic places:   
Kiev, Odessa, the Crimea,   
Port Said, Alexandria, Lisbon,   
the Canaries, Caracas, Galveston.   
In the damp grass he recites the names   
over and over in a hushed voice   
while the sun climbs into the locust tree   
to waken the houses. The husbands leave   
for work, the women return to bed, the kids   
bend to porridge and milk. He advances   
slowly, eyes fixed, an animal or a god,   
while beneath him the earth holds its breath.
Source: Poetry (January 2003).

Poet Bio