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they told me a surgeon sat down in the hospital morgue

next to your body.
He yelled at the aide to get out.

His two sons had been your students.

–me, too, little-knowing–

I’m always, my young fathers,
out in the air, loving you.
Water to water.


Jean Valentine won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book,Dream Barker, in 1965. Her eleventh book of poetry is Break the Glass, just out from Copper Canyon Press. Her previous collection, Little Boat was published by Wesleyan in 2007. Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965–2003 was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. The recipient of the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, Valentine has taught at Sarah Lawrence, New York University, and Columbia.

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MICHAEL KLEIN wrote "then, we were still living" (GenPop Books, 2010), "The End of Being Known" (University of Wisconsin Press), "Track Conditions" (University of Wisconsin Press) and "1990" (Provincetown Arts Press), which won a Lambda Literary Award. He has work forthcoming in Poets & Writers, Fence and The Awl. He teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Goddard College in Port Townsend, Washington and Plainfield, Vermont. He lives in New York City.

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  • Daniel Wuenschel via Facebook February 24, 2011, 1:37 pm

    I am looking forward to seeing Ms. Valentine in a couple hours reading at Suffolk University. I can hardly wait!

  • Marsha Howard February 24, 2011, 7:29 pm

    Thanks for posting this poem, Michael. I first met Jean when you gave a reading at the Mid-Manhattan Library–too many years ago. She became my teacher/mentor/friend. (Also, thanks for the comment rules–too bad that needs stating).

  • Anonymous User via Facebook February 26, 2011, 2:43 am

    thank you for posting this!

  • tess March 7, 2011, 3:48 am

    I like how this poem seems to be in several places all at once. Grounded, yet floating. Direct, yet indirect. Quiet, yet loud.

    – tess

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