Jean Valentine

You Speak

Jean Valentine’s “You Speak” read by her daughter, Rebecca Chace

I’m not without you friend
but without stars,
skin & fingers, borders

not separated out. Here
you get past everything
all at once. I remember

everything. That white tree
And what was never there
to remember, I remember

as if I’ve come upon
a whole room full of clay books
that I can read with my fingers

as we once read each other,
younger than water, remember? And
“–if transformation comes?”

I could compare it maybe to a train
in Tolstoy, already having forgiven
everything, forward & backward:

            the train is saying

Come on. I’m writing on a tablecloth.
I love you.

Shirt in Heaven
Copyright © 2015 by Jean Valentine
Reprinted with permission from Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, Washington

Jean Valentine was born in Chicago, earned her B.A. from Radcliffe College, and lived most of her life in New York City. She won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Her thirteenth book of poetry was Shirt in Heaven, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2015. Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965 – 2003 won the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. She taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Graduate Writing Program of New York University, Columbia University, and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Jean Valentine died on December 29, 2020, in New York, New York. She was 86.

Rebecca Chace is the award-winning author of Leaving Rock Harbor and other books. She has written for the New York Times Magazine, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Guernica, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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Note from the Editor

Winter 2021