He sings the songs of America's heartland. How fitting that he's been tapped this year to sing of poetry and reality in America today. Congrats to Philip Levine, this year's Poet Laureate.
This poem makes me as sad as it makes me proud. He's Yeats (in "Among Schoolchildren"), if Yeats lived in Detroit and worked for a living and was realistic about the futures of the schoolchildren in front of him. Levine captures the promise and the potential of children - both youngsters before puberty, and the babies they once were - as well as the inevitable human failings they will achieve as adults. However, even faced with those who will "turn against me or the light," the speaker offers all he has, "all I will ever know" - his words, his whispers, his voice, his poems.
As parents, doesn't that voice always win? That urge just to tell, and keep telling, in the hope that our words will make some small impact on the lives of our children? We have no way of knowing what our children will become - but we know that they will make mistakes, and we know that they have infinite promise. So, we bank the fires of wonder with our words, knowing that their days of feeling unloved will come in the future, and hoping beyond hope that what we had to tell them will be enough to keep them warm.