A Valentine For Ernest Mann
You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.
Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.
Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he reinvented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. An the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of the skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.
Maybe if we reinvent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.
-Naomi Shihab Nye
Read the poem and then ask your kids to brainstorm unlikely places that poetry might hide in their everyday lives. Your students will list these ideas and put stars beside their favorites. They can then use their favorite starred ideas for stories or they can come back to these ideas for later. I have been learning that modeling and sharing your own writing is so important to your teaching of writing. Try this quick write in your own writing journal and share your ideas with your students. Here is what I brainstormed when we worked through this quick write in class:
- Between the lines of grandma's noodle recipe.
- Inside the hair dooey box waiting to be chosen.
- Between two hands held too lightly.
- On the brush of a freshly-shaven face.
- Inside a fragile hug.
- In soft-spoken words across a telephone line.
- In the pungent smell of hog poop.
- In an old worn-out pair of jeans.
- In a Bob Parks birthday flier.