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.
THE POOL PLAYERS.
SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.
We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
From The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harpers. © 1960 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
He sat cross-legged, weeping on the steps when Mom unlocked and opened the front door. O God, he said, O God. He wants to kill me, Mom. When Mom unlocked and opened the front door at 3 a.m., she was in her nightgown, Dad was asleep. He wants to kill me, he told her, looking over his shoulder. 3 a.m. and in her nightgown, Dad asleep, What's going on? she asked, Who wants to kill you? He looked over his shoulder. The devil does. Look at him, over there. She asked, What are you on? Who wants to kill you? The sky wasn't black or blue but the green of a dying night. The devil, look at him, over there. He pointed to the corner house. The sky wasn't black or blue but the dying green of night. Stars had closed their eyes or sheathed their knives. My brother pointed to the corner house. His lips flickered with sores. Stars had closed their eyes or sheathed their knives. O God, I can see the tail, he said, O God, look. Mom winced at the sores on his lips. It's sticking out from behind the house. O God, see the tail, he said, Look at the goddamned tail. He sat cross-legged, weeping on the front steps. Mom finally saw it, a hellish vision, my brother. O God, O God, she said.
From When My Brother Was An Aztec by Natalie Diaz. Copyright © 2012 by Natalie Diaz. Reprinted with permission of Copper Canyon Press. All rights reserved.