<
>

Poem: The Two Simones: Simone Biles, Simone Manuel

US gymnast Simone Biles competes in the women's floor event final of the Artistic Gymnastics at the Olympic Arena during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 16, 2016. TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images

In honor of Black History Month, espnW is running essays and poems throughout February on influential black athletes.

for Simone Biles and Simone Manuel

Miraculous is a woman

her dedication, her skill,

the body that she wills

to slice air high above

heads, land precisely.

Her squared shoulders

She tumbles in a leotard,

commands every shift in muscles,

the master of limbs in her own flip.

The twist of her body
swift and exacting

as she loops, spirals

her way to lift arms

upright, arch her back.

Miraculous is the woman

who snaps into focused

taut line as she barely

breaks the water's surface.

No jet engine or combustion

Ignites her push past

the others determined to make

their mark, but she is so focused

her hands touch the lip of the pool.

Her nails polished red, white, blue.

She covers her mouth as she bobs

in the water and begins to weep.

These two Simones, in namesake and spirit, sever

wind and water, declare hard-fought victories, recall

another Simone, called Nina. She sang loud and clear.

I wish, I wish, I could know how it feels to be free.

Tara Betts is the author of Break the Habit and Arc & Hue. Her work has appeared in POETRY, Essence, NYLON, and numerous anthologies. Tara is also one of the co-editors of The Beiging of America: Personal Narratives About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century. She teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago.