Three Days of Forest, a River, Free

The dogs have nothing better
to do than bark; duty’s whistle
slings a bright cord
around their throats.
I’ll stand here all night
if need be, no more real
than a tree when no moon shines.

The terror of waking is a trust
drawn out unbearably
until nothing, not even love,
makes it easier, and yet
I love this life:

three days of forest,
the mute riot of leaves.

Who can point out a smell
but a dog? The way is free
to the river. Tell me,
Lord, how it feels
to burst out like a rose.

Blood rises in my head–
I’m there.
Faint tongue, dry fear,
I think I lost you to the dogs,
so far off now they’re no
more than a chain of bells
ringing darkly, underground.

–Rita Dove

Rita Dove won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 and was the youngest poet to serve as the Poet Laureate of the United States.