I was just at the post office mailing my Valentine’s Day cards, and there I met the friendliest woman on the planet. In five minutes’ conversation we covered the Pope’s resignation, all the Charlie Brown characters we could remember, her favorite candies, recent films we’ve seen, and who she’s sending Valentine cards to. After a while I asked her, “Are you always so friendly?” “Yes,” she said, “I have to be. Every day is a gift, that’s how I look at it.” She told me her husband died two years ago. “And look at me,” she said, “I’m pretty young for that.”
She’s on my mind, that bubbly stranger. I don’t know her name but I dedicate this Valentine’s Day post to her. She lost the love of her life but she hasn’t lost love.
So here’s my annual Valentine’s Day poem-spending spree:
Costco had a jewelry booth for Valentine’s Day and that seemed like a good place to leave Ogden Nash’s “A Word to Husbands.”
“Whenever you’re right, shut up” is excellent advice for any lover, not just husbands.
Pottery Barn was selling a few Valentine’s Day gifts by the register. When the salesperson’s back was turned, I folded up “24th September 1945” by Nazim Hikmet and stuffed it in the silver heart box.
Hikmet was a Turkish poet and wrote the poem in prison. In spite of the date in the title, the poem is timeless, and a good one for lovers who hope that the happiest days are still ahead.
On a little path that runs by a creek, a woman I’ve never seen leaves quirky arrangements of twigs, flowers, rocks, pinecones, leaves and whatever else is nearby. She does her work in secret and so do I. As a way of introducing myself to her, I left Nikki Giovanni’s “A Poem of Friendship” by one of her “installations” that wasn’t covered by snow.
It rained heavily the night after I left this poem, so I hope it’s still there for nature lovers to find on a romantic or platonic stroll.
Teenagers have so many ways to be miserable and so many ways of hiding that misery. I left Jack Gilbert’s “The Abandoned Valley” at the entrance of a local high school as a reminder that Valentine’s Day is a great holiday to reach out to people who are lonely.
The image of a well might not be familiar to today’s high schoolers, but “being alone so long” is to most.
Allan Ginsburg found Walt Whitman in the grocery store, so I figured he might belong in the drug store too. I put Whitman’s poem “As Adam Early in the Morning” on a shelf at Rite Aid loaded with diet products.
“Be not afraid of my body” says Whitman, and I hope dieters won’t be afraid of their own. No one should have to buy a product that makes them shit in their pants just to get someone to love them or so they can love themselves. No body type is unlovable!
For years poet Ted Kooser sent out postcards with a new poem every Valentine’s Day. One of them, “For You, Friend,” I left at a candy store.
If anyone’s looking for the best chocolate on the planet and you live near Inkster, Michigan, this is the place for you.
Finally, I left a Valentine poem for my own valentine in pretty much the same place I left one last year, outside his office:
For you, dearest heart, Robert Bly’s “A Man and a Woman Sit Near Each Other.”
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Spread some love!