Against Self-Pity

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 10 1998 3:30 AM

Against Self-Pity

Against Self-Pity


By Rita Dove

(posted Wednesday, Sept. 9, 1998)

To hear the poet read "Against Self-Pity," click here.

It gets you nowhere but deeper into
your own shit--pure misery a luxury
one never learns to enjoy. There's always some

meatier malaise, a misalliance ripe
to burst: soften the mouth to a smile and
it stutters; laugh, and your drink spills onto the wake

of repartee gone cold. Oh, you know
all the right things to say to yourself: Seize
the day, keep the faith, remember the children

starving in India ... the same stuff
you say to your daughter
whenever a poked-out lip betrays

a less than noble constitution. (Not that
you'd consider actually going to India--all
those diseases and fervent eyes.) But if it's

not your collapsing line of credit, it's
the scream you let rip when a centipede
shrieks up the patio wall. And that

daughter? She'll find a reason to laugh
at you, her dear mother. Poor thing
wouldn't harm a soul!
she'll say, as if

she knew of such things--
innocence, and a soul smart enough to know
when to get out of the way.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove is the author of six books of poetry, as well as a novel, short stories, essays, and the verse drama The Darker Face of the Earth. Her latest volume of poems, On the Bus With Rosa Parks, is forthcoming in April 1999.