"Birthday Letter from South Carolina” by Jean Valentine (1981)

for Sarah, 21

Yellow apple
Star inside the apple
seed star        quiet


Walking up the Cummings’ quiet red-earth road,
I think of you there, near the white-
ridged harbor: in a yellow kerchief,
in the blowing sunlight, you walk
along the concrete of the holding world.

You hold it all to your chest, the blue day, night,
long coffee, long talk,            —You hold
your kind, stumbling, sure
life in your hands.
Indian cloth, the goose-neck desk light …


Basho spent the first twenty years of his life
apprenticing, his second twenty years
raising his family, the third twenty years
walking. Walking here

today I saw him, Basho, at the far edge of the field
of winter wheat; and you alongside him;
his long black and white steps moving
not away; alongside.