It’s always what we don’t fear that happens (Rita Dove 1)

Rita Dove is a staggering poet. The poem she’s reading in the clip above is from her 2000 collection On the Bus with Rosa Parks. Her most recent publication is the long poem Sonata Mulattica, a stunning performance, a historical drama about a black performer stricken from the records of history. It’s written in short, effective poems written with an eerie eye for detail, sound and nuance. The book as a whole is highly recommended, as is every book by this excellent poet. However, the best place to start is probably still the epochal, and Pulitzer-winning Thomas and Beulah. You can get it here. Trust me. Below is the full text of the poem she reads out aloud above:

Rita Dove: Black on a Saturday Night

This is no place for lilac
or somebody on a trip
to themselves. Hips
are an asset here, and color
calculated to flash
lemon bronze cerise
in the course of a dip and turn.
Beauty’s been caught lying
and the truth’s rubbed raw:
Here, you get your remorse
as a constitutional right.

It’s always what we don’t
fear that happens, always
not now and why are
you people acting this way
(meaning we put in petunias
instead of hydrangeas and reject
ecru as a fashion statement).

But we can’t do it – naw because
the wages of living are sin
and the wages of sin are love
and the wages of love are pain
and the wages of pain are philosophy
and that leads definitely to an attitude
and an attitude will get you
nowhere fast so you might as well
keep dancing dancing till
tomorrow gives up with a shout,
’cause there is only
Saturday night, and we are in it –
black as black can,
black as black does,
not a concept
nor a percentage
but a natural law.


One thought on “It’s always what we don’t fear that happens (Rita Dove 1)

  1. Pingback: Weariness and Affliction (Rita Dove 2) « shigekuni.

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