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About this Poem 

“These are terrible days in this country. I honor Claudia Rankine and Jacqueline Woodson, everyone who writes deeply about these times, and every act of nonviolence.  I wanted here to remember Michael Brown.”
Jean Valentine

Poem from the Russian

In a circle of 12 winter trees
I’m hunched
Remembering being fled from

—Who gave me this wool sweater?
So it please you life, we won’t go alone—
Next year will be better.
Remember that white tree?

The white underpaint of the government.
The country of bone.

In memory of Michael Brown
 

Copyright © 2014 by Jean Valentine. Used with permission of the author. 

Copyright © 2014 by Jean Valentine. Used with permission of the author. 

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
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
I am twenty, 
drifting in la chalupa, 
the blue boat painted with roses,
white lilies—

No, not drifting, I am poling
my way into my life.         It seems
like another life:

There were the walls of the mind.
There were the cliffs of the mind,
There were the seven deaths,
and the seven bread-offerings—

Still,
poem
The branches looked first like tepees,
but there was no emptiness.

Like piles of leaves waiting for fire:
at the foot of the wisewoman trees,
at the foot of the broken General,

next to the tree of the veteran
girl who died this summer       slow red
cloth