Red Suitcase (American Poets Continuum)
Naomi Shihab Nye
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Valentine for Ernest Mann
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter and say, "I’ll take two"
and expect it to handed back to you
on a shiny plate.
Still, I like you spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here’s my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.
Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.
Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.
fold their wings. A nervous squirrel babbles all day and the newspaper tells how cold it was a hundred years ago. We wrap our sweaters tightly. How strange to go on in your life when the ground has shifted and shaken: our friends in Mexico City do not stop dreaming of the hole. Who would say, Look up, Have faith, Someone is standing on the roof of the world? Not now anyway. Last week a priest told the children of a murdered woman, “One thing I am sure of, God hates this.” How busy
He must be, blessing and hating, worrying and loving, as we lug our burdens toward anywhere to set them down. This says nothing of burglars, how busy they must be too, following each cord to its appliance, and the names of pawn shops: FAIR TRADE, DIAMOND, BIG STATE, waiting with open mouths to gather what we lose. I can’t separate it anymore. Stunned faces, cord of love knotting with grief, sleepless children obsessed with their mother’s floor. And the day of innocent birds which
You wear the colors of the horizon inside your bruise. You have lived on the cliff so long, staring off to sea dreaming what lies on the other side; the big land, the gasp of rumpled cities, the flush and certainty: we are what is happening. May you find it. In the meantime your island stays lodged inside me, a mint I turn over and over with my tongue for its endless flavor. 4. Thank you for the books you sent which connect quite specifically to everything I have been thinking of
for the last 12 years. How did you know this? We barely met. We barely brushed one another in the flood of comings-and-goings. I tried to think of something to send in return but kept being distracted by the woolen doll on my desk from Chiapas, her pigtails tied with pink yarn. Do you want her? She wears a look of having been recently startled. 5. Sometimes a new sister comes forward, or a brother, and the mouth opens on a hello so long and wide whole countries live inside it. Where
odd sock in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite. And let me know. FIREFLIES Lately I had looked for you everywhere but only night’s smooth stare gazed back. Some said DDT had cupped your glow in its sharp mouth and swallowed. The loneliness of growing up held small soft pockets you could have filled. This summer I took my son to the Texas hills where you startled us at dark, ancestral droves swirling about our heads. He thought you held kerosene lamps the size of