You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.
Still, I like your 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.
From Red Suitcase by Naomi Shihab Nye. Copyright 1994 Naomi Shihab Nye. Used by permission of the author.
You get into puddles with the sky
and when this fails
pit your girl against an ocean.
Choices blur and make off with rooms
in the whiteness. Winged enough to manage
your red kimono’s 37 cranes in various
trajectories while you make the coffee.
You as God with rattlesnakes
and His Admiral Death holding down the muscle,
headless and breath swollen.
You scattered in her facelessness
behind the screen door, not frowning, not joyous,
just working her hands in a dish towel,
folding them away.
You as ether, over-exposed bursting place,
dulling with these selves, spun by light and
dropped into shadow places,
forgotten as you put the photos down.
Copyright © 2015 by Amber Flora Thomas. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets