In this installment, R. Erica Doyle reads “Unknown Female Head” by Laetitia Elizabeth Landon. Doyle was born in Brooklyn after the riots of '68. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Callaloo, Ploughshares, Best Black Women's Erotica, Bum Rush the Page, Ms. Magazine, and is forthcoming in Bloom, Our Caribbean: Writing by LGBT Writers of the Antilles, and Quotes Community: Notes for Black Poets. She has received grants and awards from the Hurston/Wright Foundation, the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a fellow of Cave Canem: A Workshop and Retreat for Black Writers.
Laetitia Elizabeth Landon, "Unknown Female Head"
I know not of thy history, thou sad
Yet beautiful faced Girl:—the chestnut braid
Bound darkly round thy forehead, the blue veins
Wandering in azure light, the ivory chin
Dimpled so archly, have no characters
Graven by memory; but thy pale cheek,
Like a white rose on which the sun hath look'd
Too wildly warm, (is not this passion's legend?)
The drooping lid whose lash is bright with tears,
A lip which has the sweetness of a smile
But not its gayety—do not these bear
The scorch'd footprints sorrow leaves in passing
O'er the clear brow of youth?—It may but be
An idle thought, but I have dream'd thou wert
A captive in thy hopelessness: afar
From the sweet home of thy young infancy,
Whose image unto thee is as a dream
Of fire and slaughter, I can see thee wasting
Sick for thy native air, loathing the light
And cheerfulness of men; thyself the last
Of all thy house, a stranger and a slave!