A man leaves the world and the streets he lived on grow a little shorter. One more window dark in this city, the figs on his branches will soften for birds. If we stand quietly enough evenings there grows a whole company of us standing quietly together. overhead loud grackles are claiming their trees and the sky which sews and sews, tirelessly sewing, drops her purple hem. Each thing in its time, in its place, it would be nice to think the same about people. Some people do. They sleep completely, waking refreshed. Others live in two worlds, the lost and remembered. They sleep twice, once for the one who is gone, once for themselves. They dream thickly, dream double, they wake from a dream into another one, they walk the short streets calling out names, and then they answer.
Valentine for Ernest Mann
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.