De pestmeester van Paul Fürst, Der Doctor Schnabel von Rom. 1656. BELGAIMAGE
"Boccaccio: Jaren van de Plaag”

Zelfs ‘s nachts de lucht rinkelde en rinkelde.
Door het dikke gedraaide glas
zag hij de priesters voorbij bezemen
in hun gepiekte kappen, doden verzamelend.
Op iedere stoep een schotel zoet geronnen
rook brandend. Hij sloot de ogen
om de klap te horen
van vlees op vlees, een
vloeibaar gekraak zoals een druif
als ze op de tong gebroken wordt.

Als jongen zwierf hij
langs dezelfde straten, verliefd
op hij wist niet wie. O de
rieten sonatines en toorts-
flikkering op de koele slijkkanten
van de brug en stoom
in pluimen golvend
door de slachthuisgaten -
twintig jaar.
Uit het licht gerold
leunde hij met zijn wang
tegen de rijen gebonden leder:

koel water. Fiametta!
Hij had haar op honderd
manieren beschreven; iedere keer
bleek ze ontrouw. Kon hij alleen
maar deze stad in twee breken
zodat de maan de wormstekige straten
zou zuiveren! Of
wegwandelen van dit alles, gewoon
weer opnieuw verliefd worden…
Dove has had a tremendous impact on American letters, not only through the scope of her poetry, but also through her work as an advocate. She was named US poet laureate in 1993. Just 40 years old at the time of her appointment, she was the youngest poet ever elected to the position. She was also the first African American to hold the title (Gwendolyn Brooks had been named consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985). Dove was also the first poet laureate to see the appointment as a mandate to generate public interest in the literary arts. She traveled widely during her term, giving readings in a variety of venues from schools to hospitals. 

Dove noted in the Washington Post that her appointment was “significant in terms of the message it sends about the diversity of our culture and our literature.” Dove has continued to play an important role in the reception of American poetry through her work as editor of the Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry (2011). The omnibus collection of a century-worth of American verse stirred controversy and generated new dialogues about the legacy of American poetry, and its current state. Many praised the anthology for its inclusiveness and scope, however. Katha Pollitt in The Nation called it “comprehensive and broad-ranging,” whatever its omissions.

Rita Dove is the recipient of many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is a Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville.
Dove is a sensual, lyrical poet, and her poems often explore female black experience and social history. Her intimate style is said to be capable of dissolving the barriers between the present and the past. Featuring famous black American women, such as Rosa Parks and Billie Holiday, as well as more anonymous, every‑day characters, her poems explore what Dove calls the ‘underside of history’.
“Boccaccio: The Plague Years”

Even at night the air rang and rang.
Through the thick swirled glass
he watched the priests sweep past
in their peaked hoods, collecting death.
On each stoop a dish burning sweet
clotted smoke. He closed his eyes
to hear the slap
of flesh onto flesh, a
liquid crack like a grape
as it breaks on the tongue.

As a boy he had slipped
along the same streets, in love with
he didn’t know whom. O the

reeded sonatinas and torch
flick on the chill slick sides
of the bridge and steam
rising in plumes
from the slaughterhouse vents—
twenty years.
Rolling out of the light
he leaned his cheek
against the rows of bound leather:

cool water. Fiammetta!
He had described her
a hundred ways; each time
she had proven unfaithful. If only
he could crack this city in two
so the moon would scour
the wormed streets clean! Or
walk away from it all, simply
falling in love again . . .

Reprinted from Collected Poems: 1974-2004. Copyright (c) 2016 by Rita Dove. publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
THE BREATHING, THE ENDLESS NEWS

Every god is lonely, an exile
composed of parts:  elk horn,
cloven hoof.  Receptacle

for wishes, each god is empty
without us, penitent,
raking our yards into windblown piles...

Children know this; they are
the trailings of gods.  Their eyes
hold nothing at birth then fill slowly

with the myth of ourselves.  Not so the dolls,
out for the count, each toe pouting from
the slumped-over toddler clothes:

no blossoming there.  So we
give our children dolls, and
they know just what to do -

line them up and shoot them.
With every execution
doll and god grow stronger
Foto door Min Thein op Pexels.com
Heart to Hearth

It's neither red
nor sweet.
It doesn't melt
or turn over,
break or hearden,
so it can't feel
pain,
yearning,
regret.

It doesn't have
a tip tot spin on,
it isn't even
shapely -
just a thick clutch
of muscle,
lopsided,
mute.  Still,
I feel it inside
its cage sounding
a dull tattoo:
I want, I want -

but I can open it:
there's no key.
I can't wear it
on my sleeve,
or tell you from
the bottom of it
how I feel.  Here,
it's all yours, now -
but you'll have
to take me,
too.
Foto door Pixabay op Pexels.com

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