African-American Culture · African-American Literature · Classic · Collection · Contemporary · Poetry

Rita Dove

Describe Yourself in Three Words or Less

I’m not the kind of person who praises
openly, or for profit; I’m not the kind
who will steal a scene unless
I’ve designed it. I’m not a kind at all,
in fact: I’m itchy and pug-willed,
gnarled and wrong-headed,
never amorous but possessing
a wild, thatched soul.

Each night I set my boats to sea
and leave them to their bawdy business.
Whether they drift off
maddened, moon-rinsed,
or dock in the morning
scuffed and chastened–
is simply how it is, and I gather them in.

You are mine, I say to the twice-dunked cruller
before I eat it. Then I sing
to the bright-beaked bird outside,
then to the manicured spider
between window and screen;
then I will stop, and forget the singing.
(See? I have already forgotten you.)

Rita Dove, American Smooth. (W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition, February 17, 2006)

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