ham slice brushed subterranean green.
They were eating his misery
like bad medicine meant to help them
grow. They would have done anything
not to see his hand jerk like that,
his belt hissing through the loops and
around that fist working inside the coils
like an animal gnawing, an animal
who knows freedom's worth anything
you need to leave behind to get to it--
even your own flesh and blood.
Former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove received the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama. Her latest book publications are Sonata Mulattica and The Penguin Anthology of 20th-Century American Poetry.