: St. Valentine's Eve :

an excerpt by Carolyn Stoloff

for Ted Kooser

Buttoning up an old woman’s coat.

Tailor, sewing seeds on a strawberry by starlight.

A child skips to the ladder waving her valentine—
a red plush heart glued to the moon’s white doily.

The hero races toward his tryst in the forest
crushing wild strawberries underfoot.

At night, wherever on earth each of them sat
gazing up at the sky’s tiny gold blinking buttons,
they felt connected.

The navy blue fabric of darkness.

The smile she peels off like a self-stick price tag
when a customer leaves.

Stretching his lower lip the chimp peels ants
from the twig he holds.

Ladder, still propped against the button tree.