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About this Poem 
“This was written about a beloved friend who had a great gift of life even when he was close to death himself.”
—Jean Valentine

In the Library

Light drifts across the ceiling
as if we are under water

—whoever would approach you
you changed the comer

You holding on to the front of my coat
with both hands, the last time I saw you

—I felt your death coming close
—the change in your red lips

You gave me your hand.
You pulled me out of the ground.

Copyright © 2018 by Jean Valentine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2018 by Jean Valentine. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine

The author of many collections of poetry, Jean Valentine has received such honors as the National Book Award, the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

you leapt sometimes
you walked away sometimes

that time on the phone you
couldn’t get your breath
I leapt but couldn’t get to you

I caught the brow that bid the dead
I caught the bough that hid

I’m, you know, still here,
tulip, resin, temporary—

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
There's one day a year
they can return, 
if they want.
He says he won't again.
I ask what it's like—
he quotes St. Paul:
"Now hope is sweet."
Then in his own voice.
Oh well it's a great scandal,
the naked are easier to kill.