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About this Poem 

"This is a poem that I wrote last May, more than a year after Adrienne Rich's death, and have only just finished (if it is finished). Adrienne was my first woman poet friend; we met because when my first book was published, in 1965, she read it & wrote me a letter. That was an act of generosity that was characteristic of her forever."
—Jean Valentine

Friend,

Jean Valentine, 1934

You came in a dream, yesterday
—The first day we met
you showed me your dark workroom
off the kitchen, your books, your notebooks.

Reading our last, knowing-last letters
—the years of our friendship
reading our poems to each other,
I would start breathing again.

Yesterday, in the afternoon,
more than a year since you died,
some words came into the air.
I looked away a second,
and they were gone,
six lines, just passing through.

                                          for Adrienne Rich

Copyright © 2013 by Jean Valentine. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine

The author of many collections of poetry, Jean Valentine has received such honors as the National Book Award, being selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and the Wallace Stevens Award

by this poet

poem
He was shoveling sand
at the edge of the water, his heavy black glasses
glittered with rain:

"Don't you see how much like a woman I am?"
Shovel, shovel.

His throat was wrapped in water, 
and the water flowered with milt.

Shoveler, are you eating the earth?
Earth eating you?

Teach me
what I have to have
to
poem
I saw my soul become flesh     breaking open
the linseed oil breaking over the paper
running down     pouring
no one to catch it     my life breaking open
no one to contain it     my
pelvis thinning out into God
poem
one arm still a swan's wing
The worst had happened before: love—before
I knew it was mine—
turned into a wild
swan      and flew
across the rough water

Outsider      seedword
until I die
I will be open to you as an egg
speechless red