Just when hope withers, the visa is granted.
The door opens to a street like in the movies,
clean of people, of cats; except it is your street
you are leaving. A visa has been granted,
“provisionally”-a fretful word.
The windows you have closed behind
you are turning pink, doing what they do
every dawn. Here it’s gray. The door
to the taxicab waits. This suitcase,
the saddest object in the world.
Well, the world’s open. And now through
the windshield the sky begins to blush
as you did when your mother told you
what it took to be a woman in this life.
Rita Dove is a poet and essayist. From 1993 to 1995, she served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She is the first African-American to have been appointed since the position was created by an act of Congress in 1986 from the previous “consultant in poetry” position (1937–86). She is the second African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1987, and she served as the Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006.
Dove was born in Akron, Ohio, to Ray Dove, the first African-American chemist to work in the U.S. tire industry (as research chemist at Goodyear), and Elvira Hord, who achieved honors in high school and would share her passion for reading with her daughter. In 1970, she graduated from Buchtel High School as a Presidential Scholar and later graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from Miami University in 1973. In 1974, she held a Fulbright Scholarship from Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany. She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1977.
Dove’s work cannot be confined to a specific era or school in contemporary literature; her wide-ranging topics and the precise poetic language with which she captures complex emotions defy easy categorization. Her most famous work to date is Thomas and Beulah, published by Carnegie-Mellon University Press in 1986, a collection of poems loosely based on the lives of her maternal grandparents, for which she received the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. She has published ten volumes of poetry, a book of short stories (Fifth Sunday, 1985), a collection of essays.
Rita Dove is a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fellowship of Southern Writers and PEN American Center. She is a long-serving juror of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards.