Grace Cavalieri is Maryland’s Tenth Poet Laureate. She’s the author of 26 books and chapbooks of poetry. She’s had several plays, short-form and full-length, produced, most recently “Quilting The Sun,” NYC 2019. She founded, produces and hosts “The Poet and the Poem,” for public radio, 44 years on-air, now from The Library of Congress. Cavalieri’s was poetry columnist/reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books for 10 years. She has taught poetry workshops in colleges throughout the country. Her latest books are Grace Art-Poems and Paintings (Poet’s Choice Press,2021;)and The Secret Letters of Madame de Stael (183 Goss Pub. 2021.)
Among honors Grace holds 2013 Association of Writers& Writing Programs’ George Garrett Award, the Pen-Fiction Award, two Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, the Bordighera Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Award, the Folger Library Columbia Award, The Washington Independent Review Lifetime Achievement Award, The National Commission on Working Women, The American Association of University Women, Phi Beta Kappa, and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal.
When you were in the 9th grade and I was in the 7th, you were
a crossing guard keeping order at Junior High School number 3. No one
was disobedient when you wore that wide yellow strap across your chest—
no one bruised another, caused trouble, or so much as threw a stone—
no one cracked a joke about you, a man in uniform. How did
that yellow vest feed your soul to let you know someday you’d
fly a plane just to feel the power of a strap across your chest. What
liberation— to know how to be in charge— strong and capable—
flying through gunfire and lightning again and again to come back to me.
Although we were young, you were 15 and I was 13, since then, I’ve never
known the world without you. Now I must be 12.
Forget what I said before—
It’s evening in Tuscany.
Someone is making bread that will not grow stale,
others are picking carciofi.
The moon won’t speak one word
so covered with the moss of clouds.
I know someone who died, but stays.
I would live it all again.
Nothing is divested but the
crêpe myrtle that screams pink.
Nothing is enough but the
empty wastebasket where letters once were.
they do not fold their
tents like tourists in Aruba.
How shall we dress our children
for their first fine day at school—
The refuged do not worry about
a dress, a suit, a fine day
And look at the photos
of the African child dying in the camp
with flies on his eyelids.
He has no wish for the teddy bear
sent from UNICEF.
So you dreamed last night about a baby
that you forgot to feed.
It’s not a dream the refugees
can afford to dream.
This is why you write a poem.
In fact, It’s all that you can do.
You cannot know more, unless
you are that child with a broken arm,
or, the Mother with
a baby crying at her drying breasts.
If you are not with the exiled,
captured, stripped and sold, then
you are the one who must write this poem.