Green Valentine

I went in the forest to look for a sign
Fortune to tell and thought to refine;
My green valentine, my green valentine,
What do I know of my green valentine?

I found a strange wild leaf on a vine
Shaped like a heart and as green as was mine,
My green valentine, my green valentine,
How did I use my green valentine?

Bodies I’ve known and visions I’ve seen,
Leaves that I gathered as I gather this green
Valentine, valentine, valentine, valentine
Thus did I use my green valentine.

Madhouses and jailhouses where I shined
Empty apartment beds where I pined,
O desolate rooms! My green valentine,
Where is the heart in which you were outlined?

Souls and nights and dollars and wine,
Old love and remembrance – I resign
All cities, all jazz, all echoes of Time,
But what shall I do with my green valentine?

Much have I seen and much am I blind,
But none other than I has a leaf of this kind.
Where shall I send you, to what knowing mind,
My green valentine, my green valentine?

Yesterday’s love, tomorrow’s more fine?
All tonight’s sadness in your design.
What does this mean, my green valentine?
Regret, O regret, my green valentine.

Chiapas, 1954
from Collected Poems 1947-1997, Harper Collins, 2006. Used with permission.

Allen: “In Mexico, I’d lived on a cacao plantation for three months in Chiapas rain forest, solitary wondering where I’d ever find love, amid insect-eating blossoms and giant palms, caoba (mahogany) trees and one plant with a huge heart-shaped leaf. “Green Valentine” echoes some old Tin Pan Alley, music hall barbershop, almost vaudeville number, sentimental like “My Yiddishe Mama”, the kind of thing you sing to yourself in bed..

An early recording (chez Cassady’s) can be found on Holy Soul Jelly Roll
and also on this 2010 curiosity, The Beat Generation Music and Poetry.

One comment

  1. We have a native tree known as the redbud in Michigan, which also has heart-shaped leaves. I have planted two of them in my garden, along with two kousas, both pairs in memory of Allen. David Cope

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