‘They Feed They Lion’ by Philip Levine

“I would say that the best poem I ever wrote came easily, came rather quickly: “They Feed They Lion.” It’s about a reaction to the riots and the sort of urban rebellion of the ’60s in Detroit. And it tries to reach into the depths of what causes things like this.”

— Philip Levine

from “They Feed They Lion”

Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,

Out of black bean and wet slate bread,

Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,

Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,

They Lion grow.

Out of the gray hills

Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,

West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,

Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,

Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,

They Lion grow.

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