Friday Poem


…. —Third Testimony: Ali

….. Butterfly, butterfly on the wall
….. Can’t you hear your country call?

Black man’s got no business being
both pretty and bold—with a right hook
as swift as his banter, his feet
a flurry of insults, disguised as dance.

There’s a war going on, but he’s having
none of it. He flicks those angry eyes,
then flings out a rhyme
quick as tossing a biscuit to a dog.

He’s our homegrown warrior, America’s
toffee-toned Titan; how dare he swagger
in the name of peace? No black man
strutting his minstrel ambitions

deserves these eloquent lips:
Swat him down, pin him to the mat!
On and on they mutter, hellbent on keeping
their own destiny unscathed

& brazenly manifest.

by Rita Dove
Playlist for the Apocalypse
W.W. Norton and Company, 2021