Testimonial

By Rita Dove b. 1952 Rita Dove
Back when the earth was new
and heaven just a whisper,
back when the names of things
hadn't had time to stick;

back when the smallest breezes
melted summer into autumn,
when all the poplars quivered
sweetly in rank and file . . .

the world called, and I answered.
Each glance ignited to a gaze.
I caught my breath and called that life,
swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet.

I was pirouette and flourish,
I was filigree and flame.
How could I count my blessings
when I didn't know their names?

Back when everything was still to come,
luck leaked out everywhere.
I gave my promise to the world,
and the world followed me here.

Rita Dove, "Testimonial" from On the Bus With Rosa Parks. Copyright © 1999 by Rita Dove.  Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..

Source: Poetry (January 1998).

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This poem originally appeared in the January 1998 issue of Poetry magazine

January 1998
 Rita  Dove

Biography

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 Living, Youth, Coming of Age, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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