<Last night, again, I dreamed
my children were back at home,
small boys huddled in their separate beds,
and I went from one to the other
listening to their breathing --- regular,
almost soundless --- until a white light
hardened against the bedroom wall,
the light of Los Angeles burning south
of here, going at last as we
knew it would. I didn't waken.
Instead the four of us went out
into the front yard and the false dawn
that rose over the Tehachipis and stood
in our bare feet on the wet lawn
as the world shook like a burning house.
Each human voice reached us
without sound, a warm breath on the cheek,
a dry kiss.
Why am I so quiet?
This is the end of the world, I am dreaming
the end of the world, and I go from bed
to bed bowing to the small damp heads
of my sons in a bedroom that turns
slowly from darkness to fire. Everyone
else is gone, their last words
reach us in the language of light.
The great eucalyptus trees along the road
swim in the new wind pouring
like water over the mountains. Each day
this is what we waken to, a water
like wind bearing the voices of the world,
the generations of the unborn chanting
in the language of fire. This will be
tomorrow. Why am I so quiet?
---©1988 Philip Levine,
Reprinted in Poetry of the American West
(Columbia University Press)