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By Rita Dove

I was ill, lying on my bed of old papers,

when you came with white rabbits in your arms;

and the doves scattered upwards, flying to mothers,

and the snails sighed under their baggage of stone . . .


Now your tongue grows like celery between us:

Because of our love-cries, cabbage darkens in its nest;

the cauliflower thinks of her pale, plump children

and turns greenish-white in a light like the ocean’s.


I was sick, fainting in the smell of teabags,

when you came with tomatoes, a good poetry.

I am being wooed. I am being conquered

by a cliff of limestone that leaves chalk on my breasts.


Rita Dove, “The Secret Garden” from Yellow House on the Corner (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1989). Copyright ©1989 by Rita Dove. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Yellow House on the Corner (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1989)

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Poet Bio

Rita Dove
The second African-American woman to be named Poet Laureate of the United States, and only the second to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry (Thomas and Beulah, 1987), Rita Dove has achieved a great deal in her career.  Her multi-layered poems dramatize the stories of individuals both living and dead against the backdrop of larger historical forces. See More By This Poet

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