“Today and Two Thousand Years from Now” by Philip Levine

The job is over. We stand under the trees
waiting to be told what to do,
but the job is over.

The darkness pours between the branches above,
but the moon’s not yet
on its walk

through the night sky trailed by stars.
Suddenly a match flares, I see
there are only us two,

you and me, alone together in the great room
of the night world, two laborers
with nothing to do,

so I lean to the little flame and light my Lucky
and thank you, comrade, and again
we are in the dark.

Let me now predict the future. Two thousand years
from now we two will be older,
wiser, having escaped

the fleeting incarnations of workingmen.
We will have risen from the earth
of southern Michigan

through the tangled roots of Chinese elms
or ancient rosebushes to take
the tainted air

into our leaves and send it back, purified,
down the same trail we took
to escape the dark.

Two thousand years passed in a flash to shed
no more light than a wooden match
gave under the trees

when you and I were lost kids, more scared than
now, but warm, useless, with names
and different faces.

Philip Levine