National Book Award–winner Jean Valentine’s most recent book, quietly marked by her signature minimalism, proceeds chronologically from childhood drawings and wartime memories to senescence and inescapable losses. Her translations, interspersed throughout, complement the compassionate moral sensibility, ever precise and unwavering, of her own poems.
Shirt in Heaven
Come upon a snapshot
of secret you, smiling like FDR, leaning on your crutches—
come upon letters I thought I’d burned—
I suppose you’ve got a place with lots of stairs.
I’m at the end of something, you’re at the beginning . . .
—dearest, they told me a surgeon sat down
in the hospital morgue, next to your body, & cried.
He yelled at the aide to get out.
His two sons had been your students.
—me too, little-knowing—