About this Poem 

"This is a poem that I wrote last May, more than a year after Adrienne Rich's death, and have only just finished (if it is finished). Adrienne was my first woman poet friend; we met because when my first book was published, in 1965, she read it & wrote me a letter. That was an act of generosity that was characteristic of her forever."
—Jean Valentine

Friend,

Jean Valentine, 1934

You came in a dream, yesterday
—The first day we met
you showed me your dark workroom
off the kitchen, your books, your notebooks.

Reading our last, knowing-last letters
—the years of our friendship
reading our poems to each other,
I would start breathing again.

Yesterday, in the afternoon,
more than a year since you died,
some words came into the air.
I looked away a second,
and they were gone,
six lines, just passing through.

                                          for Adrienne Rich

Copyright © 2013 by Jean Valentine. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Jean Valentine. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 27, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine

The author of many collections of poetry, Jean Valentine has received such honors as the National Book Award, being selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and the Wallace Stevens Award

by this poet

poem
Friend or no friend, 
darkness or light, 
vowels or consonants, 
water or dry land,

anything more from you now
is just gravy
—just send me down forgiveness, send me down
bearing myself a black cupful of light.
poem
He was shoveling sand
at the edge of the water, his heavy black glasses
glittered with rain:

"Don't you see how much like a woman I am?"
Shovel, shovel.

His throat was wrapped in water, 
and the water flowered with milt.

Shoveler, are you eating the earth?
Earth eating you?

Teach me
what I have to have
to
poem
Red cloth
I lie on the ground
otherwise nothing could hold

I put my hand on the ground
the membrane is gone
and nothing does hold

your place in the ground
is all of it
and it is breathing