My best friend and I both have birthdays in April (hers is just the day before mine). I remember talking once about why an April birthday is perfect: it's usually warm, the flowers are out just for you, and all of your presents can be new spring clothes and shoes. Of course, it's been a cold spring here so far---it is snowing again right now, as I write, big, fluffy flakes that are actually sticking in the greening grass. But I also know it will come, eventually, that April feeling: being outside in a world transformed by color, feeling free without a sweatshirt weighing down your shoulders or boots on your feet. I love April. That it's also National Poetry Month makes it even better, so I'm going to post a few more poems than normal this month to celebrate!
This poem was written when one of the poet's students asked her to write him a poem. I'm posting it today because it feels more like Valentine's Day here than warm April, but also because the last stanza resonates with me so strongly. I'd like to think that reinventing my life's events into poems might be a cathartic and peace-bringing experience. So, I keep trying, keep writing, hoping one day it will all make sense.
Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye
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 you 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.