Thursday, February 14, 2008

One of 2700

I learned a surprising statistic today. I was one of 2700 women who received an annual valentine from Ted Kooser, the former Poet Laureate. I didn't ask to be on his list. Here's how it happened: I randomly checked out one of his books, Delights and Shadows, at the library.

I was delighted--the poems were so crisp and clear that I read them aloud to my husband for the sheer joy of being able to hear the words and rhythms out loud. I searched online, found Mr. Kooser's email address and wrote to him to tell him how much my husband and I had enjoyed the book.

He wrote back. I was astounded that he'd take the time. And he added me to his valentine list.

I only received two before he discontinued the list this year (he'd been sending the valentines out since 1986, I believe. I was a latecomer.) Tonight NPR aired an interview with him, talking about his valentine poems and the mailing list.

That's when I learned that he'd been mailing 2700 of them every year. That is a lot of stamps, and a lot of caring. How many people do you know who would be willing to send valentines to strangers just to make them happy?

So tonight, here is my valentine for Ted Kooser. I may never meet him in person, but I have read all his books and in those poems have come to know a man I admire and respect very much. Would that there were many more like him in this world.

Thank you, Mr. Kooser. You made a bright place in my life these past two years when I was in sore need of light.

Men I Love

Road construction workers
covered in dust and sweat,
muscles flexing under gray t-shirts.
Men who move the big machines.

Black men in old pickup trucks
and old men in coffee shops,
shopkeepers in aprons
or little boys in cowboy boots.

Men changing diapers,
splitting wood in flannel shirts,
white-shirted boys on dates and
dudes with silver hair.

Men in uniforms of camouflage
coming home to families waiting,
baseball players sliding home
and especially stay-home dads.

Mechanics under rusty hoods,
quiet men who write poetry,
boys coloring with broken crayons,
laughing men and crying men.

Men in aprons barbecuing,
window washers high on scaffolds,
or brick masons in hardhats
who place each brick in place and line.

Teenaged boys with spiky hair
and peach fuzz faces,
Old men playing music
On banjos and autoharps.

Men really, of any kind.
All the men, I love.


Anonymous said...

Did ya ever notice that 3 of us took off camoflage to put on a hard hat? 'Cept Tommy, he got it backward. He put on the hardhat first!


Granny Sue said...

I never noticed that, Chick! How funny. And one took off a white shirt to put on a blue one. Two took off mortarboards for hardhats, too. Mutli-hatted, some of you are!

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