Listening By Jean Valentine

My whole life I was swimming listening
beside the daylight world like a dolphin beside a boat

—no, swallowed up, young, like Jonah,   
sitting like Jonah in the red room
behind that curving smile from the other side

but kept, not spat out,   
kept, for love,

not for anything I did, or had,   
I had nothing but our inside-
outside smile-skin ...
my paper and pen ...

but I was made for this: listening:
“Lightness wouldn't last if it wasn't used up on the lyre.”
Jean Valentine, “Listening” from Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003. Copyright © 2004 by Jean Valentine. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965-2003 (Wesleyan University Press, 2004)

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