‘Paterson’, the new movie by Jim Jarmusch, is about a week in the life of a poet/bus driver whose poetry is inspired by such every day items as a box of matches. The movie’s poems were actually written by Ron Padgett whose work has brilliantly straddled the every day and the absurd for decades, but I’ll save him for another time. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I hasten to bring you this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye who also locates her poems in the ordinary, only to show us what a magical place that can be.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

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 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 off sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.



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15 Responses to Valentine

  1. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    Wonderful !

  2. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    Wonderful poem.

    • Liza says:

      So nice to hear from you, Cheryl. I hope your year is off to a good start — and you’re managing to keep your head above all this snow!

  3. annette shear says:

    how charming! it “hits the spot” on a sleety day in New York City just before Valentine’s Day. Thank you.

  4. Jackie Wein says:

    Thanks for reminding us just how magical poetry can be.

  5. Lorraine Tinger says:

    Love it!
    Not only does it teach us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it taught me not to jump to conclusions, to not be so quick to make a judgement. It can be so easy to jump to the wrong conclusion as the lady who cried did. Try to be open and to see beyond what our mind might be telling us. Thank you!

  6. Beata M. Newman Scarpulla says:

    Dear Liza,

    This special Valentine edition of your blog is sweet and charming, and it teaches us as the saying goes not to judge a book by its cover.


  7. Larry Carswell says:

    Check your garage, the off sock…

  8. Leslie Gold says:

    I posted this poem on my Facebook page to the delight of my friends. That way I get to read it again and again…and I am delighted each time…

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