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.



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.


Rita Dove

Rita Dove Reading from her poems


2Shakespeare Say


4The Event

5Courtship, Diligence

6Straw Hat


8Roast Possum

9The Oriental Ballerina

10After Reading <i>Mickey in the Night Kitchen</i> for the Third Time Before Bed


12The Island Women of Paris

13The Bistro Styx

14Demeter's Prayer to Hades

15Persephone, Falling

16Lost Brilliance

17Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967

18Freedom Ride

19The Enactment


21All Souls'

22American Smooth

23Fox Trot Fridays

24Meditation at Fifty Yards, Moving Target

25The Castle Walk

26The Return of Lieutenant James Reese Europe

27The Seven Veils of Salomé


29Hattie McDaniel Arrives at the Coconut Grove

Books by Rita Dove