'You are the most beautiful dark'
I heard Yona Harvey say in an interview that this loose Shakespearean (“the bard”) sonnet was written for her teenage daughter, which makes its deep, layered beauty a touching monument to what this mother knows and admires in her daughter’s unsettling but necessary blooming into selfhood.
SONNET FOR A TALL FLOWER BLOOMING AT DINNER
by Yona Harvey
Southern Flower, I want to quote the bard,
to serenade you, to raise a glass to you.
lone & tall you are always parched
& hungry. You wobble in strong winds, you
pull your bright hair when it rains, you
toss off the lint of dandelions, you
lean into the evening haunts
with your indifferent afro. You
were born in the old-world city, the invisible
dark girl city, the city that couldn’t hold
a candle, a straight pin a slave-owner’s sins
to you. You are the most beautiful
dark that hosts the most private sorrows
& feeds the hungriest ghosts.
American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Yona Harvey, 'Sonnet for A Tall Flower Blooming at Dinner' from You Don’t Have to Go to Mars for Love, (Four Ways Books 2020). Poem reprinted by permission of Permissions Company, LLC and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.