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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tony Lindsay Presents... Rita Dove

In 1987, Rita Dove’s chronological collection of poems “Thomas and Beulah” won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. What is instructional and needed are the very first words of the collection; “These poems tell two sides of a story and are meant to be read in sequence.” The two sides told are of a single love shared by two. And Dove bears the painfully ugly with the blissfully beautiful.

The two points of view of the story or poems are encompassed in two sections: I Mandolin and II Canary in Bloom. If the reader does as directed and reads the poems in sequence, two lives will unveil into one love and one family. The two poems featured here give two perspectives of the same event.

Fine evening may I have
the pleasure . . .
up and down the block
waiting – for what? A
magnolia breeze, someone
to trot out the stars?

But she won’t set a foot
in his turtledove Nash,
it wasn’t proper.
Her pleated skirt fans
softly, a circlet of arrows

King of the Crawfish
in his yellow scarf,
mandolin belly pressed tight
to his hounds-tooth vest –
his wrist flicks for the pleats
all in a row. . .


. . . so he wraps the yellow silk
still warm from his throat
around her shoulders. (He made
good money; he could buy another.)
A gnat flies
in his eye and she thinks
he’s crying.

Then the parlor festooned
like a ship and Thomas
twirling his hat in his hands
wondering how did I get here.
China pugs guarding a fringed sette
where a father, half-Cherokee,
smokes and frowns.
I’ll give her a good life-
what was he doing
selling all for a song?
His heart fluttering shut
then slowing opening.

                                        Courtship, Diligence  
A yellow scarf runs through his fingers
as if it were melting.
Thomas dabbing his brow.

                                       And now his mandolin in a hurry
though the night as they say,
is young
though she is getting on

Hush, the strings tinkle. Pretty gal.

Cigar-box music!
she’d much prefer a pianola
and scent in a sky-colored flask.

Not that scarf, bright as butter.
Not his hands, cool as dimes.

Dove masterfully allows the reader into two minds in the poems, and this creative prowess is extended throughout the collection. If a reader is seeking to escape into a shared love with its pains and joys then Thomas and Beulah will not disappoint.

Tony Lindsay is an award-winning author and adjunct professor at Chicago State University. His book ONE DEAD DOCTOR was chosen by Conversations Book Club as one of its Top 100 Books of 2012. Lindsay was named Conversations Author of the Year 2012-2013.  His new book EMOTIONAL DRIPPINGS is available now on He can be reached at or on Facebook at

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