Celebrate poetry! “Poem in Your Pocket Day”

betty ming liu Inspiration 8 Comments

Today, I’m celebrating “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that one from me, were you?  ;-)

But I’m serious.

All these years, I’ve been waiting to meet a really good man. And now that we’re together, I realize that my first therapist was right. When I was lonely wreck in the aftermath of my divorce, she kept telling me that romance isn’t about a guy. It’s about the overall quality of my life. The poetry of my life.

To be honest, I don’t read enough poetry. That, however is about to change:

  • I am heading off to work this morning with eight copies of my favorite poem, “Touch Me.” And in keeping with “Poem in My Pocket Day,” I will share it with others. Ask me for a copy so that I won’t feel ridiculous carrying them around! I have eight copies because in Chinese culture, eight is considered the luckiest number.
  • I just signed up for a Poem-a-Day email subscription via Poets.org. The website is sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, which is promoting both “Poem in a Pocket Day” and the “National Poetry Month” of April. I really like the idea of receiving some beautiful words in my inbox on a daily basis.

I’ve also getting interested in exploring poetry in the Big Apple. The city’s website lists a bunch of offerings and on-going events — from a daily calendar to a poetweet contest.

Just in case we don’t run into each other on the street today, I’ll take my favorite poem out of my pocket and share it with you now. “Touch Me” is by the poet master Stanley Kunitz. During his life, he was known for being an amazing gardener with a messy personal life (multiple wives; estranged from his daughter, etc). He died in 2006 at 100 years old.

“Touch Me” is about an old guy working in his garden as he reflects on love and his beloved. This is such a timely poem because I’m feeling good about being in 50s, having a bf who makes me happy — and finishing spring cleanup on my property.

Here’s a path in my yard. Over the weekend, I hauled home 75 heavy bags of mulch. Then, I spread all that shredded cedar bark around the plant beds.

Yes, I’m proud of myself! The effort brought me closer to Stanley’s poem. Wallowing in the dirt made me feel like I was tending to my own joie de vivre in a Stanley-ish way. Joy of life. I can get that for myself.

Anyways, the ending of Stanley’s poem  says it all: “…touch me/Remind me who I am.”

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Comments 8

  1. Post

    i really need to find more poems. as much as i love stanley’s “touch me,” it’s about an old man talking to his wife. i want to find something from a woman’s viewpoint and/or work that’s gender-neutral. if you have any suggestions, please share. :)

  2. It seems to me that man is equal to the gods,
    that is, whoever sits opposite you
    and, drawing nearer, savours, as you speak,
    the sweetness of your voice

    and the thrill of your laugh, which have so stirred the heart
    in my own breast, that whenever I catch
    sight of you, even if for a moment,
    then my voice deserts me

    and my tongue is struck silent, a delicate fire
    suddenly races underneath my skin,
    my eyes see nothing, my ears whistle like
    the whirling of a top

    and sweat pours down me and a trembling creeps over
    my whole body, I am greener than grass,
    at such times, I seem to be no more than
    a step away from death;


    You’re in my eyes
    how else could I see light?
    You’re in my brain.
    This wild joy.
    If love did not live in matter
    how would any place
    have any hold
    on anyone?

  3. Post

    sighhhh. thank you, francesca!

    it’s 12:48 p.m. — and i have given away all the poems from my pocket. the morning has also brought me several random encounters with poetry….people just talking to me about poetry. how’d that happen? well, i’m enjoying it. give me more. :)

  4. Re: “Romance being about the overall quality/poetry of your life”,
    a favorite of mine …

    Love after Love
    The time will come
    when, with elation,
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror,
    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.
    ~ Derek Walcott ~

  5. Next to November (because it is the month I was born), April has become my favorite month (because of poetry).

    For the past few months I was volunteering at a public school in Queens leading poetry workshops for fourth and fifth grade classes. Betty, it was so awesome. I hooked up with a principal who expressed that funding had been pulled for arts and various other programs in her school and the rest is history. Monday after Monday trekking out there became one of the most challenging, stretching but most rewarding and pleasant days of my week.

    I have long loved poetry but only started to love writing it somewhere around HS when my creative writing teacher proved to me that I didn’t have to be intimidated by it.

    I think in a way, how she influenced me is how your therapist helped you see that individuals weren’t necessarily what your life focus should be…but you starting to romance yourself, find the romance you need in life before sharing it with others. I think that is such awesome counsel. I think this advice shows you not to be intimidated from life the way I was intimidated from poetry. In the same way, I wanted my students (ha ha, so funny, I had ”students”) not to be intimidated by poetry or what they thought a poem should be based on things other people told them.

    Isn’t living your life just the way you know it should be without a sort of poetry in motion itself? Doesn’t it take things line by line, word by word and sum up into something wonderful?

    I was blessed to be able to see Stanley Kunitz at The Town Hall in Manhattan in my early twenties. I’m glad you included his poem and am more glad that you are including poetry in your life.

    Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    Betty’s blog rocks!
    And she knows it, too
    -M. Skye Holly

    :) Since my posts are always novella-esque, I will start ANOTHER ONE with some cool poems I enjoy.

  6. Back again…some of my favorite poems!

    The children in my workshops loved reading and hearing this performed:

    TWISTABLE TURNABLE MAN by Shel Silverstein

    He’s the Twistable Turnable Squeezable Pullable
    Stretchable Foldable Man.
    He can crawl in your pocket or fit your locket
    Or screw himself into a twenty-volt socket,
    Or stretch himself up to the steeple or taller,
    Or squeeze himself into a thimble or smaller,
    Yes he can, course he can,
    He’s the Twistable Turnable Squeezable Pullable
    Stretchable Shrinkable Man.

    Because I tend to identify with people who identify with Brooklyn, here’s an excerpt from classic Walt Whitman:

    CROSSING BROOKLYN FERRY (*excerpt, Section V) by Walt Whitman

    What is it then between us?
    What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?

    Whatever it is, it avails not-distance avails not, and place avails not,
    I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
    I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island, and bathed in the waters around it,
    I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
    In the day among crowds of people sometimes they came upon me,
    In my walks home late at night or as I lay in my bed they came upon me,
    I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution,
    I too had receiv’d identity by my body,
    That I was I knew was of my body,and what I should be I knew I
    should be of my body.
    And he lives a passable life
    With his Squeezable Lovable Kissable Hugable
    Pullable Tugable Wife.
    And they have two twistable kids
    Who bend up the way that they did.
    And they turn and they stretch
    Just as much as they can
    For this Bendable Foldable
    Easily moldable
    Buy-what you’re-soldable
    Washable Mendable
    Highly Dependable
    Buyable Saleable
    Always available
    Bounceable Shakeable
    Almost unbreakable
    Twistable Turnable Man.

  7. Ahhh! So sorry! At the end of the Whitman poem, I pasted Silverstein again. My mistake for trying to do this in a rush before I left. Betty, how do I get rid of that?

  8. check out SAUL WILLIAMS and SUHEIR HAMMAD!!

    They are both spoken word artists and poets! These brilliant minds create soulful words!!

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