American Life in Poetry: Column 529

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

People speak of “hearts and flowers” when they’re talking about poems with predictable sentimentality, but here’s an antidote to all those valentines, from Sally Bliumis-Dunn, who lives in New York. Her most recent book of poems is Second Skin, Wind Publications, 2010.

Heart

She has painted her lips
hibiscus pink.
The upper lip dips
perfectly in the center

like a Valentine heart.
It makes sense to me—
that the lips, the open

ah of the mouth
is shaped more like a heart
than the actual human heart.
I remember the first time I saw it—

veined and shiny
as the ooze of a snail—
if this were what
we had been taught to draw

how differently we might have
learned to love.


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2014 by Sally Bliumus-Dunn and reprinted by permission. Introduction copyright © 2018 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.