Rita Dove


Fine evening may I have
the pleasure…
up and down the block
waiting — for what? A
magnolia breeze, someone
to trot out the stars?

But she won’t set a foot
in his turtledove Nash,
it wasn’t proper.
Her pleated skirt fans
softly, a circlet of arrows.

King of the Crawfish
in his yellow scarf,
mandolin belly pressed tight
to his hounds-tooth vest —
his wrist flicks for the pleats
all in a row, sighing…

…so he wraps the yellow silk
still warm from his throat
around her shoulders. (he made
good money; he could buy another.)
A gnat flies
in his eye and she thinks
he’s crying.
Then the parlor festooned 
like a ship and Thomas
twirling his hat in his hands
wondering how did I get here.
China pugs guarding a fringed settee
where a father, half-Cherokee,
smokes and frowns.
I’ll give her a good life —
what was he doing,
selling all for a song?
His heart fluttering shut
then slowly opening.