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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1Ö

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2Shakespeare Say

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3Parsley

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4The Event

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5Courtship, Diligence

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6Straw Hat

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7Dusting

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8Roast Possum

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9The Oriental Ballerina

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10After Reading Mickey in the Night Kitchen for the Third Time Before Bed

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11Canary

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12The Island Women of Paris

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13The Bistro Styx

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14Demeter's Prayer to Hades

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15Persephone, Falling

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16Lost Brilliance

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17Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967

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18Freedom Ride

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19The Enactment

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20Rosa

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21All Souls'

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22American Smooth

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23Fox Trot Fridays

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24Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Target

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25The Castle Walk

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26The Return of Lieutenant James Reese Europe

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27The Seven Veils of Salomé

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Books by Rita Dove