You have broken the path of the dragonfly
who visits my patio at the hour when
the sky has nearly forgotten the sun.
You have come to tell me
how happy we are, but I know
what you would and would not do
to make us happy. For example this necklace
before me: white eyes,
a noose of guileless tears.

– Rita Dove. Pearls



      for Michael S. Harper

Billie Holiday’s burned voice
had as many shadows as lights,
a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.

(Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,
magic spoon, magic needle.
Take all day if you have to
with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)

Fact is, the invention of women under siege
has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.

If you can’t be free, be a mystery.

– Rita Dove. Canary