In college, I took a class called African-American Poetry. It was a fantastic class, and the highlight was having Rita Dove come in to read her poems to the class. Her book of poems, Thomas and Beulah, won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. It was a thrill to hear a real live poet read their poems out loud to us. I’d never heard a poetry reading before. After the class, Ms. Dove was available to sign our copies of her book (another first for me). I had her sign my favorite poem in the book, “Daystar.” I’d like to share it with you here because I think it so lovely, and I often think of it (especially after becoming a mother).
by Rita Dove
She wanted a little room for thinking:
but she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.
Sometimes there were things to watch –
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her own vivid blood.
She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why,
building a palace. Later
that night, when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour — where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.