"The Gift" by Li-Young Lee

To pull the metal splinter from my palm my father recited a story in a low voice.

I watched his lovely face and not the blade. Before the story ended, he'd removed the iron sliver I thought I'd die from.

I can't remember the tale,

but hear his voice still, a well of dark water, a prayer. And I recall his hands,

two measures of tendernes she laid against my face,the flames of discipline

he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon

you would have thought you saw a man planting something in a boy's palm, a silver tear, a tiny flame.

Had you followed that boy

you would have arrived here,

where I bend over my wife's right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail downso carefully she feels no pain.

Watch as I lift the splinter out I was seven when my fathertook my hand like this,

and I did not hold that shard

between my flngers and think,Metal that will bury me,christen it Little Assassin,

Ore Going Deep for My heart.

And I did not lift up my wound and cry,

Death visited here!

I did what a child does

When he's given something to keep.

I kissed my father.


"Lady Freedom Among Us" by Rita Dove

don't lower your eyes

or stare straight ahead to where

you think you ought to be going


don't mutter oh no

not another one

get a job fly a kite

go bury a bone

with her oldfashioned sandals

with her leaden skirts

with her stained cheeks and whiskers and heaped up trinkets

she has risen among us in blunt reproach


she has fitted her hair under a hand-me-down cap

and spruced it up with feathers and stars

slung over one shoulder she bears

the rainbowed layers of charity and murmurs

all of you even the least of you

don't cross to the other side of the square

don't think another item to fit on a tourist's agenda


consider her drenched gaze her shining brow

she who has brought mercy back into the streets

and will not retire politely to the potter's field


having assumed the thick skin of this town

its gritted exhaust its sunscorch and blear

she rests in her weathered plumage

bigboned resolute


don't think you can ever forget her

don't even try

she's not going to budge

no choice but to grant her space

crown her with sky

for she is one of the many

and she is each of us



Flash Cards by Rita Dove

In math I was the whiz kid, keeper

of oranges and apples. What you don't understand,

master, my father said: the faster

I answered, the faster they came.

I could see one bud on the teacher's geranium,

one clear bee sputtering at the wet pane.

The tulip trees always dragged after heavy rain

so I tucked my head as my boots slapped home.

My father put up his feet after work

and relaxed with a highball and The Life of Lincoln.

After supper we drilled and I climbed the dark

before sleep, before a thin voice hissed

numbers as I spun on a wheel. I had to guess.

Ten, I kept saying, I'm only ten.