Jean Valentine is the author of nine books of poetry, including her most recent collection, Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems (Wesleyan), which was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. Valentine has also been the recipient of the Yale Younger Poets Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and awards from the NEA, The Rockefeller Foundation, The New York Council for the Arts, and The American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and the 92nd St. Y, and lives in New York City.


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La Chalupa, the Boat
by Jean Valentine



I am twenty,
drifting in la chalupa,
the blue boat painted with roses,
white lilies—


No, not drifting, I am poling
my way into my life. It seems
like another life:


There were the walls of the mind,
There were the cliffs of the mind,
There were the seven deaths,
and the seven bread-offerings—


Still, there was still
the little boat, the chalupa
you built once, slowly, in the yard, after school—