The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Ridin’ the Moon in Texas, the collection of poems containing “irrepressibly bronze, beautiful and mine,” responds to particular works of art. The artwork to which “irrepressibly bronze” specifically responds is an untitled photograph of a man’s back by acclaimed and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The poem, occupying four and one-half pages, is not an extended description of the photograph; rather, it is a poem on a topic—black men—inspired by it.

The poem is divided into three sections, all written in free verse. The first section, written in the first person, itself seems to break up into two parts. The first part provides a history of the speaker’s sexual awakening. It begins with a childhood crush on a friend of her father who used to arrive in St. Louis each summer with different white women. The speaker thought of this man as hers because he was black, as she is. This memory triggers another, of laughing and playing with young boys who would grow up into black men “if they lived so long.” She remembers the sexual excitement and mild sense of danger of dancing with black men as a young woman.

This leads into a part of the poem, written in the present tense—a portion that reads like a seduction. “Look at me pretty niggah,” she says, and “bring it on baby.” The language in this part of the poem is explicitly sensuous, clearly sexual, and full of images of “holding your heart” and...

(The entire section is 590 words.)