poetry in the eyes of skunks

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 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 reinvented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of the skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we reinvent 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.

– Naomi Shihab Nye
  in The Red Suitcase, Brockport, NY: BOA Editions, 1994.


One day, shall I make another blog in which to hole up all my thinking and clicking on poetry – just another wop-sided, baby-hipped, greasy apron-wearing poet/ry  lover going down in the history of womankind as one not taking every opportunity to whittle her domestic capabilities but rather trading it somewhat for the fanciful language involved with such things as tacos and skunks? 

or shall I keep the tacos and skunks here?
About me


Reply July 30, 2008

There is this beautiful girl at church -her hair and her eyes. She sparkles, I promise, and she responded to this post with an email to me that I absolutely have to paste as a comment to share the poem and then quote. She quotes John Updike. I'm seriously in love with her (a member of areadingroom.blogspot.com if you want to see more of her.)

Hey Amber,
The tacos and skunks poem and your post reminded me of this poem by Paul Zimmer - have you read any of his?

Confession, Curse and Prayer

I confess all creatures I have killed:
Flies, mosquitoes, roaches, ants in number;
Sowbugs, moths, grasshoppers, and bees;
Also beetles, snails, spiders to less degree;
Then two snakes, a quail, four frogs,
One baby robin and a rabbit stoned
In a seizure of youthful cruelty;
Two mangled woodchucks and a dying cat in mercy;
Many fish, some crabs, once a chicken,
Toads, worms and a butterfly or two.
Thus I am steeped in death like any man.

I recall so many of their resignations:
The first shock and brief fluttering,
The eyes turning slowly into themselves,
Or the small shell suddenly crushed
While the limbs still twitch and clutch
At the final glimmers of perception,
At the irretrievable thing that is gone;
And I am guilty of these destructions.

God damn the man who call this sentimentality!
Who could not think of these things
Without praying for a quiet mood?
Let nothing cruel stir in my blood again.

Now that I read it again, I'm wondering why I thought of it, but I think it's that they're both valuing the unlikely things - the skunk or the sowbug. Aah, I love it! Now this reminds me of this: "What art offers is space - a certain breathing room for the spirit." John Updike said it.

Hope you enjoy if hadn't already read Zimmer.

Reply July 30, 2008

Doh! I did it again. That last post was MINE! This must be a running joke I have with myself.

Craig and Cindy
Reply July 30, 2008

Keep the tacos and skunks... at first I thought Seth must be referring to his wife Amber and then I saw the name Susan at the bottom and somehow thought it must be your taco and skunk lovin' alterego! he he


Reply July 30, 2008

they are an indispensable part of your running-amok life/times. so i say keep them here.

Reply July 30, 2008

ha! i was a little confused for a minute there too. and i agree with melody - poems are part of the run-a-muck goodness.

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