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American Life in Poetry: “Scarf”

July 7, 2022 Updated Fri., July 8, 2022 at 3:27 p.m.

By Kwame Dawes

By Kwame Dawes

In her poem, “Scarf”, Rita Dove, with inimitable delicacy, efficiency and grace, captures something of the way in which our sensate bodies are often the true legislators of beauty. Here, the sense of touch is celebrated through a beautiful image that evokes just how much our need to feel is as essential as breathing.


Whoever claims beauty

lies in the eye

of the beholder

has forgotten the music

silk makes settling

across a bared

neck: skin never touched

so gently except

by a child

or a lover.

Poem copyright 2021 by Rita Dove, “Scarf” from Playlist for the Apocalypse. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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