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In honor of National Poetry Month, Lifetime Learning is featuring poems written by esteemed faculty all month long. The eighth and final poem in this series is written by Rita Dove, 1993-95 U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-06 Virginia Poet Laureate, 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, and University of Virginia Commonwealth Professor in Creative Writing. In August, 2016, UVAToday published an article on the dedication of a new mural on the Graduate Charlottesville hotel that features Dove’s poem, “Testimonial”. This poem, originally published in Dove’s book On the Bus with Rosa Parks, has been republished here with permission from both Rita Dove and the University of Virginia Office of Communications. Find the full article here.

“High above University Avenue, the mural is now visible from Grounds, adding a colorful element to the tableau of art and architecture that UVA students and visitors enjoy each day.” – University of Virginia Office of Communications

Dove Mural Painting
Photo by UVA Office of Communications


Back when the earth was new
and heaven just a whisper,
back when the names of things
hadn’t had time to stick;

back when the smallest breezes
melted summer into autumn,
when all the poplars quivered
sweetly in rank and file . . .

the world called, and I answered.
Each glance ignited to a gaze.
I caught my breath and called that life,
swooned between spoonfuls of lemon sorbet.

I was pirouette and flourish,
I was filigree and flame.
How could I count my blessings
when I didn’t know their names?

Back when everything was still to come,
luck leaked out everywhere.
I gave my promise to the world,
and the world followed me here.

Dove Mural Signing
Photo by UVA Office of Communications

Watch the mural being created in “The Making of a Mural“, University of Virginia Office of Communications, UVAToday.

See an interview with Rita Dove from March 21, 2017 on C-Span.