By Rita Dove b. 1952 Rita Dove
Every day a wilderness—no   
shade in sight. Beulah
patient among knicknacks,   
the solarium a rage
of light, a grainstorm
as her gray cloth brings
dark wood to life.

Under her hand scrolls
and crests gleam
darker still. What
was his name, that
silly boy at the fair with
the rifle booth? And his kiss and   
the clear bowl with one bright   
fish, rippling

Not Michael—
something finer. Each dust   
stroke a deep breath and   
the canary in bloom.
Wavery memory: home   
from a dance, the front door   
blown open and the parlor   
in snow, she rushed
the bowl to the stove, watched   
as the locket of ice
dissolved and he
swam free.

That was years before
Father gave her up
with her name, years before   
her name grew to mean   
Promise, then   
Long before the shadow and   
sun’s accomplice, the tree.


Rita Dove, “Dusting” from Thomas and Beulah (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1986). Copyright © 1986 by Rita Dove. Reprinted with
the permission of the author.

Source: Poetry (November 1981).


This poem originally appeared in the November 1981 issue of Poetry magazine

November 1981
 Rita  Dove


Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio in 1952, the daughter of one of the first black chemists in the tire industry. Dove was encouraged to read widely by her parents, and excelled in school. She was named a Presidential Scholar, one of the top one hundred high-school graduates in the country and attended Miami University in Ohio as a National Merit Scholar. After graduating, Dove received a Fulbright to study at the University of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Pets, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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