Canary by Rita Dove
For Michael S. Harper
Billie Holiday’s burned voice
had as many shadows as lights,
a mournful candelabra against a sleek piano,
the gardenia her signature under that ruined face.
(Now you’re cooking, drummer to bass,
magic spoon, magic needle.
Take all day if you have to
with your mirror and your bracelet of song.)
Fact is, the invention of women under siege
has been to sharpen love in the service of myth.
If you can’t be free, be a mystery.
--From Grace Notes (W.W. Norton, 1989)
Note: Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1952. She graduated with a B.A. degree from Miami University and received her MFA from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1977. She has taught creative writing at Arizona State University and was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 1993. She has published nine books of poetry, winning the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for her collection Thomas and Beulah. Dove has also published a book of short stories, a novel, a collection of essays, and a play. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.