1. Middle-aged, supremely bored
with his wife, hating his work,
unable to sleep, he rises
from bed to pace his mansion
in slippers and robe, wondering
if this is all there ever
will be to becoming Henry Ford,
the man who created
the modern world. The skies
above the great Rouge factory
are black with coke smoke, starless,
the world is starless now, all
because he remade it in
his image, no small reward.
2. Monday comes, as it must, with a pale
moon sinking below the elms.
They told us another dawn was
on the way, possibly held up
by traffic on Grand Boulevard
or by Henry, master of Dearborn,
who loathes sharing the light
with the unenlightened among us.
That was 60 years ago.
The day arrived, a weak sun
but none the less an actual
one, its sooty light bathing
walls, windows, eyelids while
old pal moon drifted off to sleep.
3. As a boy I’d known these fields
rife with wild phlox in April,
where at night the red-tailed fox
came to prey and the horned owl
split the air in a sudden rush
for its kill. I loved that world
with its little woods that held
their darkness and the still ponds,
clear as ice, that held the stars
each night until the dawn broke
into fenced plots of land,
claimed and named, barns and stables,
white houses with eyes shut tight
against the intrusion of sight.
4. Hell is here in the forge room
where the giant presses stamp
out body parts and the smell
of burning skin seeps into
our hair and under our nails.
The old man, King Henry, punches in
for the night shift with us,
his beloved coloreds and Yids,
to work until the shattered
windows gray. There is a justice
after all, there’s a bright anthem
for the occasion, something
familiar and blue, with words we
all sing, like “Time on My Hands.”
"Dearborn Suite" - by Philip Levine (as published in The New Yorker, June 9, 2008)