Reading: Dawn revisited by Rita Dove

Rita Dove (b. 1952) was the youngest Poet Laureate in the nineties and well-known to the American public. She has written a lot of longer, mythology-inspired stuff, but for our bric-a-brac anthology I read a shorter verse:

Dawn revisited
Imagine you wake up
with a second chance: The blue jay
hawks his pretty wares
and the oak still stands, spreading
glorious shade. If you don’t look back,

the future never happens.
How good to rise in sunlight,
in the prodigal smell of biscuits –
eggs and sausage on the grill.
The whole sky is yours

to write on, blown open
to a blank page. Come on,
shake a leg! You’ll never know
who’s down there, frying those eggs,
if you don’t get up and see.

I find the peaceful bird ‘hawking’ funny. The old oak that still stands seems to refer to the future, but the second chance must imply going back to the past. The oak is what connects the two and you can speak about twenty years ago and use ‘still’ for the oak, standing still and spreading its shade. This is said explicitly by the statement that if you don’t look back the future never happens, perhaps somewhat superfluous in this otherwise economical poem.

Can you smell the American breakfast? And the light coming in from the bedroom window? I assume this happens in a typical American house where the bedroom is upstairs, so there is a coming down. The sky blown open to a blank page to write on, where writing is peddling memories and imagination. Hurry up! And you’ll find yourself down there, enriched by the shades of your own imagination.

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