Posts Tagged ‘Valerie Haugen’

Dear Valerie,

Even the late flowers have gone to seed.
Asters, rabbit brush, cattails—all
have gone to creamy froth.

Even the grasses have lost their seeds.
Slender. Barren. Stark.
It is the season of loss.

But there is so much more to speak of. Honey,
for instance. Oh thank you for your poem this morning.
All day the honey shared between poets has been at the tip
of my memory. It’s so fine to have something sweet
to return to. So often it’s bitterness that sticks.

Today, I gave a book to a girl. A book about princesses.
On page two, a dragon came to the princess’s kingdom
and blew flames strong enough to burn down
her castle, her clothes, her gardens, her trees. The girl
I gave it to was so distressed, she dropped the book in the doorway,
ran to her room, hid beneath her pillow, and for ten minutes
into her mattress screamed, No, No, No, No, No.

It did not matter to her that by page 16, the princess
had outsmarted the dragon. She could not move
past the initial loss. I felt terrible for giving her the story,
of course, and sat with her while she sobbed.

How many dragons have we known, Valerie?
How many kingdoms have we watched burn down?
How many pages have we left unturned, too afraid
to see what comes next?
I do not know your dragons, but I feel them in your poems,
feel between your lines the fire of their ferocious, merciless breath.

It is odd how little we know each other, and how intimate
still we are. Both of us ravaged, we come together
dressed in nothing but paper bags.

The grasses, the ones that have dropped their seeds,
they are so beautiful. If we lived closer, I would pick them for you.
Though spare, though dry, they are the color of honey.

And the cattails, I would give you them, too.
When the sun is low, it shines through their tops
until they are wholly illumined. Like candles, only entirely aflame.

What if we are like the cattails, Valerie, and the sun
is the dragon’s fire. And the more we fall apart,
the more beautiful we are.

There are so many mountains between us,
but it is not so far as I think.
See how your seeds, they’ve planted themselves
in my garden. I will nurture them until
the dragon comes again.


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for Valerie

implausibly balanced
on strappy bright pink heels,
the poem shows its scars—
I long to touch them gingerly
but they touch me

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