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Poem In Your Pocket Day: UHD Professor Robin Davidson Shares Original Poem


By Sheryl E. Taylor

In honor of National Poetry Month’s 'Poem In Your Pocket Day' UHD Professor of English Robin Davidson (2015-17 Houston Poet Laureate) shares her original poem “To Speak of Rivers.”

To Speak of Rivers
                      after Langston Hughes


Out of land, ancient, dusky, out of marsh’s muddy bosom

a city rises skyward, each slab and brick,

each wooden beam, steel girder, mirrored surface,

a collective act of faith that a single port imagined and rooted

in a soil’s shifting can hold, call us home.

In the Biggers mural women of color move like a river

through time, history, and the reams of fabric they carry, quilt.

The woman in their midst, almost angel,

shines amber beneath what could be thread

or basket straw or rough-hewn wings,

and she looks southward toward the city’s sculpted skyline.

On Dowling Street in the heart of Houston

men’s voices rise, their guitar strings turn harp, then trumpet—

Lightning Hopkins, Texas Johnny Brown, Earl Gilliam, Grady Gaines—

until the street fills with night and song,

and I hear my own son’s voice, Born in Houston, trill among them.

On Yupon Street in the chapel named for Rothko,

the wall-sized work beneath the atrium ceiling’s shining

opens into luminous black, plum, rose. The painter believed

in the power of light to save us, just as

Newman believed in elemental form, color, the ancient

obelisk broken, rising out of water, de Menil’s monument

to a great man’s prayers turned earthward.

In the papyrus fragment of a first-century gospel, a man stands

on the bank of the Jordan, a handful of seeds in his palm.

He releases them into the current that fills first with seedlings,

then sprouts, then trees—quinces, figs, apples.

In Fourth Ward, a woman lies down in the coffin-like hole of a street

where patterned brick laid by freedmen is dug out, lost. Her body’s

weight is a port, the rooted call rising

out of land ancient, dusky, out of marsh’s muddy bosom—moving like the ghost

of a river whose tide fills with trees, their sap like human voices

soaring, a singing turned city, and free.

Dedicated to Mayor Sylvester Turner and the City of Houston
2016 Houston Arts Reception for Elected Officials
February 29, 2016


About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.