Poem introduction

In my 1999 book On the Bus with Rosa Parks - in this sequence, the titular sequence, I speculate not only on Rosa Parks' historic non-doing, her refusing to give up her seat on the segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, but also speculate on any moment in history when one is suddenly confronted with a choice - what would one do.

Rosa

Rosa

How she sat there,
the time right inside a place
so wrong it was ready.

That trim name with
its dream of a bench
to rest on. Her sensible coat.

Doing nothing was the the doing:
the clean flame of her gaze
carved by a camera flash.

How she stood up
when they bent down to retrieve
her purse. That courtesy.


From On the Bus with Rosa Parks (W W Norton & Co. Inc., 1999; originally published in Georgia Review, Winter 1998), copyright © Rita Dove 2006, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

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