Dove’s collection of poems Thomas and Beulah is a history of her mother Beulah and her father Thomas’ life together from their courtship to his death. “Wingfoot Lake,” subtitled “Independence Day,” signifies the Fourth of July.
More importantly, it suggests Beulah’s independence, recognition that she is single and must see herself for what she is now and not linger on the past. Dove comingles freedom and loss on the first anniversary of Thomas’ death.
On her 36th birthday, Thomas had shown her
her first swimming pool. It had been
his favorite color, exactly—just
so much of it, the swimmers’ white arms jutting
into the chevrons of high society.
She had rolled up her window
and told him to drive on fast.
Now this act of mercy: four daughters
dragging her to their husbands’ company picnic,
white families on one side and them
on the other, unpacking the same
squeeze bottles of Heinz, the same
waxy beef patties and Salem potato chip bags.
So he was dead for the first time
on Fourth of July.
See Rita Dove. “Wingfoot Lake.” In Thomas and Beulah. Pittsburgh:
Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986