The surprise correspondence came by snail mail addressed to me here at the Manteca Bulletin. There was no name on the return address on the upper left-hand corner of the envelope. But in the back, right on the flap of the legal-size mailing envelope was a familiar address. Ah, Loretta! I whispered to myself, and happy that my longtime friend is keeping in touch my mail.
She did not have to write down her name. I recognized the home address.
She’s Loretta McKeever, a friend for many years who, for reasons as varied as the realities of life, is embraced more often in thoughts than in actuality. And so, as evidenced by this latest snail-mail communication, at the next get together whether it be in the form of an e-mail, snail mail, or an unexpected encounter during hectic errands, and no matter how long ago was the last conversation or visit, you feel like you just talked to each other or seen each other the day before.
It was under those sentiments that I opened Loretta’s letter. And what a welcome missive!
Inside the envelope was a copy of a flyer advertising April as National Poetry Month. “Join the Academy of American Poets in celebrating POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY – April 26, 2012,” was the message at the top of the plain copy paper.
It was in celebration of this national observance that Loretta sent me the letter.
I decided to read the rest of the flyer later. I was more interested – eager is more like it – to find out what the sliver of paper was all about and what was in it. The size was about a fifth of a copy paper cut horizontally. A third of this little sliver of paper was folded so that a part of the remaining length underneath was exposed. On top of the section that was folded over was a word hand-written in plain blue ball pen – my name, Rose. On the left side of my name is a four-line seven-word verse – I’d call it a haiku for its brevity and weighted message – typed on the exposed part of the paper underneath. Opening the folded paper, and handwritten next to the poem but hidden to the recipient, is the credit line stacked up like a three-line verse – Loretta McKeever, Spring ’96. Here was Loretta’s poem:
“she, an elm
Her poem was like a breath of fresh air. I have always enjoyed her verses through the years, at least, the ones that I have been privileged to peruse. I have since forgotten the precise words, but I still remember the raw emotions they conveyed in the poem that she wrote when her father passed away. That was many moons ago.
Sometimes, the day-to-day harsh realities that pepper us daily have a way of kicking to the side of the road the fine things that contribute to our quality of life. We all know that when it comes down to a budget crunch, things like the arts and sports in the school system are among the first things that get cut in favor of life’s necessities. At least, that’s the usual explanation or rationale given when that unfortunate thing happens.
And when was the last time you heard about a poet who became a millionaire through the sale of her verses alone? I don’t think Loretta has published her poems in book form, as far as I know. But to me, her verses are worth millions. Or, I should say to be more accurate, they are priceless.
Some poets I know write not with fame or fortune in mind. That’s because their poems are so personal that having them published is tantamount to ripping open their hearts out or exposing their brains – read that, their most intimate thoughts – for the entire world to see. I thoroughly understand that. When I was a teen-aged pre-med student, I had a few poems published in national literary magazines in Manila. But I hid behind pen names for the above reason. I also did not want my parents to know that I was writing poetry when I should have been studying. At least, that’s what I believe was their belief.
But back to the Poem in Your Pocket Day flyer from Loretta.
The simple flyer included three sample “pocket poems” that I found both entertaining, even comical.
For instance, this one that any dog owner will perhaps appreciate.
(Or, The Sad Dog Song)
Home of the moth: cloth.
Home of the mole: hole
Home of the bear: lair.
Home of the ants: pants.
Home of the gnu: zoo
Home of the flea: me!
By J. Patrick Lewis.”
This quatrain titled “Raising Frogs For Profit” by one of the most recognized authors, Anonymous, tickles the funny bone.
“Raising frogs for profit
Is a very sorry joke.
How can you make money
When so many of them croak?”
The idea behind the annual Poem In Your Pocket Day is simple, according to the Academy of American Poets that is behind the April 26, 2012 celebration. Simply “select a poem you love, carry it with you, and share it with co-workers, family, and friends on Poem In Your Pocket Day.”
Here are suggestions by the Academy on some of the easy ways to celebrate that day:
•Start a “poems for pockets” giveaway in your school or workplace.
•Post a poem on your blog or social networking page.
•If you are a local business owner, offer discounts for those carrying poems.
•If you are a teacher, reward students “caught” with a poem in their pocket.
•Handwrite some lines on the back of your business cards.
•Add a poem to your email footer.
On April 26, the Academy said that “poems from pockets throughout the United States will be unfolded at events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores.”
Thanks to my friend, Loretta, I’ve already celebrated that day. Now, all I have to do is to return the favor. I already have one made. I just need to drop it in the mail. (She didn’t give me an e-mail address.)
For more on Poem in Your Pocket Day or about the Academy of American Poets, visit www.poets.org.