Spring 2009 • Vol. XXXI No. 2 Poetry |

Ode on a Negress Head Clock, with Eight Tunes

Marlborough goes off to war La da da, da da da da … Whirligiggery in the key of Grand Accidental Design: a clock-and-music-box inside the head of a woman. Beneath the gilded turban, her fat cheeks are lacquered black; ditto the neck, swanning sleekly up from gleaming drapery. But unique to this French bit of cabinetry is the ingenuous manner she can be prevailed upon to reveal her mysteries: Tug the left earring and the hours pop up into her eyes; pull on the right to start the musical engine. For the modern ear, however, just one song remains: a martial ditty about a widow waiting for her man, who's been shot down or speared through but in her hopeful affections lives on, well past Easter and Trinity, until the loyal valet returns in black to deliver his tale of woe for fifteen or more murderous verses. The seven other melodies are silent—sweetly so. We let them go; watch as this boy, standing rapt at the carpet's edge (so as not to muss

Already have an account? Log in

Join KR for even more to read.

Register for a free account to read five free pieces a month from our current issue and digital archive.
Register for Free and Read This Piece



Or become a subscriber today and get complete, immediate access to our digital archives at every subscription level.
Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove has published numerous books, most recently Sonata Mulattica and Collected Poems 1974-2004; she also edited The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Among her many awards are the National Medal of Arts and the National Humanities Medal. She is Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Read More

Canary

By Rita Dove

Marlborough goes off to war La da da, da da da da … Whirligiggery in the key of Grand Accidental Design: a clock-and-music-box inside the head of a woman. Beneath […]

Subscribe

Your free registration with Kenyon review incudes access to exclusive content, early access to program registration, and more.

Donate

With your support, we’ll continue 
to cultivate talent and publish extraordinary literature from diverse voices around the world.