By Thulani Davis b. 1949 Thulani Davis
Roslyn has nothing going
nothing to fight for
no work to do
she couldn’t name one desire
that is not someone else’s
or a man

she cannot claim
where she came from
will not claim who she is
or the way she cries
so no one can see

she has no work to do
cannot finish books
feed herself
or go out alone
she is always late
not to sit alone somewhere
and wait
she wouldn’t know what to do

Roslyn doesn’t want a thing
but she waits for something anyway
she has no work to do
she holds off interests
passions and opinions
everything but the facts
and these come to her
from dramas and the papers

she agrees with fiction
and what people say
i wouldn’t trust her in court
or on my back
a woman without a dream
is a fault in the earth
all steam and liquid fire

Roslyn goes to work
has a job
but no calling
waits for the word
to call herself
no one ever remembers her name
or where they saw her
she waits to be told
she’s the only one

her tyranny is silent
small and sexual
her losses are great
she has not called herself
said, “I’m here, now, deal with me”

Roslyn wouldn’t hurt a fly
but people fear her sleep
her unconscious
the primal whatever
that wants to play
it might have guns out
for the rest of us

Thulani Davis, “Roslyn” from Playing the Changes © 1985 by Thulani Davis and reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Playing the Changes (Wesleyan University Press, 1985)

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Poet Thulani Davis b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, Life Choices

 Thulani  Davis


Thulani Davis is an interdisciplinary artist who has written poetry, novels, plays, and screenplays. As described on the poet’s website, Davis’s work in all genres “shares a passionate concern with history, justice, [and] African American life and is marked by the journalist’s eye for the uncovered truth.” Her poetry collections include Playing the Changes (1985) and All the Renegade Ghosts Rise (1978). Raised in Virginia . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality, Life Choices

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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