These words are my life.

The official welcome to National Poetry Month will arrive tomorrow. Until then, I give you this poem by Jean Valentine (1934-). When I first read this, I kept it open in a tab on my browser for days, appreciating it in a different way with each re-reading…definitely a good reminder to not simply scan but truly savor the poetry I encounter.

Picture of Jean Valentine


The hornet holds on to the curtain, winter
sleep. Rubs her legs. Climbs the curtain.
Behind her the cedars sleep lightly,

like guests. But I am the guest.
The ghost cars climb the ghost highway. Even my hand
over the page          adds to the ‘room tone’: the little

constant wind. The effort of becoming. These words
are my life. The effort
of loving the un-become. To make the suffering

visible. The un-become love: What we
lost, a leaf, what we cherish, a leaf.
One leaf of grass. I’m sending you this seed-pod,

this red ribbon, my tongue,
these two red ribbons, my mouth,

my other mouth,
—but the other world—blindly I guzzle
the swimming milk of its seed field flower—