three poems
by Rita Dove


With the storm moved on the next town
we take a flashlight down to the basement

Nested chairs stripped of varnish
Turpentine shadows stiff legs in the air

Look by the fusebox a centipede Dad says
I scream and let go of his hairy arm

      reprinted from Museum


adolescence - i

In water-heavy nights behind grandmother’s porch
We knelt in the tickling grass and whispered:
Linda’s face hung before us, pale as a pecan,
And it grew wise as she said:
     "A boy’s lips are soft,
     As soft as baby’s skin."
The air closed over her words.
A firefly whirred in the air, and in the distance
I could hear streetlamps ping
Into miniature suns
Against a feathery sky.

      reprinted from The Yellow House on the Corner



She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.

Sometimes there were things to watch–
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her own vivid blood.

She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why,

building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour–where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.

      reprinted from Thomas and Beulah

Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1993 to 1995 and was reappointed Special Consultant in Poetry for 1999/2000. She has received numerous literary and academic honors, among them the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and, most recently, the 1996 Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the 1996 National Medal in the Humanities, the 1997 Sara Lee Frontrunner Award, the 1997 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award and the 1998 Levinson Prize from Poetry Magazine.

Ms. Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952. A 1970 Presidential Scholar, she received her B.A. summa cum laude from Miami University of Ohio and her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She also held a Fulbright scholarship at Universität Tübingen in Germany. She has published the poetry collections The Yellow House on the Corner (1980), Museum (1983), Thomas and Beulah (1986), Grace Notes (1989), Selected Poems (1993), Mother Love (1995), On the Bus with Rosa Parks (1999), a book of short stories, Fifth Sunday (1985), the novel Through the Ivory Gate (1992), essays under the title The Poet's World (1995), and the play The Darker Face of the Earth, which had its world premiere in 1996 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was subsequently produced at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and other theatres; its first British production opened at the Royal National Theatre in London on August 5, 1999. Seven for Luck, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra with music by John Williams, was premiered by the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in the summer of 1998. Ms. Dove is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she lives with her husband, German writer Fred Viebahn, and their daughter Aviva.

Visit Rita Dove’s website for more information.


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