Cover image for On the bus with Rosa Parks : poems
Title:
On the bus with Rosa Parks : poems
Author:
Dove, Rita.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
95 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393047226
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library PS3554.O884 O52 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Central Library PS3554.O884 O52 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

From the opening sequence, probing the private griefs and dreams of a working class family, to the emblematic grace of the living legend Rosa Parks, these poems explore the intersection of individual fates with the grand arc of history.


Author Notes

Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia, is the recipient of many honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Medal in the Humanities


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ai's name is as terse as an element in the periodic table, and a symbol for a complex amalgam that is part African American, Japanese (Ai means love in that language), Choctaw, and Dutch, but this braided heritage rarely surfaces in her famously jolting poems. Ai prefers to write "fictions," dramatic, sometimes surreal monologues delivered by invented characters or headline icons. This form dominates her new work as well as the selections from her first four books, Cruelty, Killing Floor, Sin, and Fate. In the past, Ai has given voice to such figures as Jimmy Hoffa, J. Edgar Hoover, and Lenny Bruce. In her new poems, she scours today's news and writes about rapists, the paparazzi, Jon-Benet Ramsey, and a president embroiled in a sex scandal. Whatever one may think of Ai's poetics, her bold and searing performances constitute a key facet in the literature of cultural dissection. Dove is a far more lyric poet, and her poems are to be savored. She, too, is a storyteller, but for her the real action is on the inside, and her psychological portraits of mothers, fathers, and children are gently illuminating and arrestingly beautiful. In "Cameos," she traces the emotional fissures that run beneath the modest facade of a blue-collar family. The theme of self-betterment and a passion for learning runs through many poems, particularly those in a sequence titled "Freedom: A Bird's Eye View." Music animates Dove's supple lines as she praises Rosa Parks and all the unnamed heroines and heroes who calmly and firmly say no to what can and must be changed, and yes to what cannot. Sanchez, like Ai, has always been an outspoken and unflinching poet, innovative in her improvisations on meter and form. She moves from harmless-looking, short-lined stanzas that pack a wallop to jazzy prose-poems, giving shape and sound to every shade of mood, from blue to sensual, violent to celebratory. More than three decades of her work appear in this new retrospective volume, including concise early works from I've Been a Woman to prosy offerings from Homegirls and Handgrenades, and on up through four subsequent volumes, ending finally with four new poems. --Donna Seaman


Publisher's Weekly Review

Dove's brillianceÄas with all great writersÄis inextricable from her formal gifts: her poems effortlessly suggest grand narratives and American myths, yet ground themselves tersely in localities, characters, practicalities and particulars. This seventh collection leads off with a Dove specialty, the historical sequence: her "Cameos" lend broad, social relevance to an intermittently abandoned Depression-era wife and her family. As in Alice Munro's fiction, slight notations of near-undetectable actions are keys to deep emotional transformation: "Now she just/ enjoys, and excess/ hardens on her like/ a shell./ She sheens." In subsequent poems such as "Testimonial" and "Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967," Dove revisits precocious origins ("I was pirouette and flourish,/ I was filigree and flame") and traces, with her characteristically strong enjambments, an emerging sexuality: "how her body felt/ tender and fierce, all at once." And as with the Pulitzer Prize-winning sonnets of Thomas and Beulah (no sonnets this time out), the reader follows the poet's imagined rituals and movementsÄ"each night the bed creaking/ cast onto the waves/ each dawn rose flaunting/ their loose tongues of flame"Äonly to come squarely back to earth in the title section: "Not even my own grandmother would pity me;/ instead she'd suck her teeth at the sorry sight/ of some Negro actually looking for misery.// Well. I'd go home if I knew where to get off." Readers will find that this is the place. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Yes, former poet laureate Dove puts us on the bus with Rosa Parks--and brings us together with countless other African American women who endure life's bruises, large and small, with immense dignity. Whatever her subject--and the range is immense, from breast-feeding to travel to her horror of self-pity--Dove is epic in emotion, lyric in her precise, jewel-like lines. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Excerpt Cameos July, 1925 Lucille among the flamingos is pregnant; is pained because she cannot stoop to pluck the plumpest green tomato deep on the crusted vine. Lucille considers the flamingos, guarding in plastic cheer the birdbath, parched and therefore deserted. In her womb a dull--no, a husky ache. If she picks it, Joe will come home for breakfast tomorrow. She will slice and dip it in egg and cornmeal and fry the tart and poison out. Sobered by the aroma, he'll show for sure, and sit down without a mumbling word. Inconsiderate, then, the vine that languishes so!, and the bath sighing for water while the diffident flamingos arrange their torchsong tutus. She alone is the blues. Pain drives her blank. Lucille thinks: I can't even see my own feet. Lucille lies down between tomatoes and the pole beans: heavenly shade. From here everything looks reptilian. The tomato plops in her outstretched palm. Now he'll come,she thinks, and it will be a son. The birdbath hushes behind a cloud of canebreak and blossoming flame. Night Joe ain't studying nobody. He laughs his own sweet bourbon banner, he makes it to work on time. Late night, Joe retreats through the straw-link-and-bauble curtain and up to bed. Joe sleeps. Snores gently as a child after a day of marbles. Joe knows somewhere he had a father who would have told him how to act. Mama, stout as a yellow turnip, loved to bewail her wild good luck: Blackfoot Injun, tall with hair like a whip.Now to do it without him is the problem. To walk into a day and quietly absorb. Joe takes after Mama. Joe's Mr. Magoo. Joe thinks, half dreaming, if he ever finds a place where he can think, he'd stop clowning and drinking and then that wife of his would quit sending prayers through the chimney. Ah, Lucille. Those eyes, bright and bitter as cherry bark, those coltish shins, those thunderous hips! No wonder he couldn't leave her be, no wonder whenever she began to show he packed a fifth and split. Joe in funk and sorrow. Joe in parkbench celibacy, in apostolic factory rote, in guilt (the brief astonishment of memory), in grief when guilt turns monotonous. He always knows when to go on home. Birth (So there you are at lastù a pip, a button in the grass. The world's begun without you. And no reception but accumulated time. Your face hidden but your name shuddering on air!) Lake Erie Skyline, 1930 He lunges, waits, then strikes again. I'll make them sweat, he thinks and does a spider dance as the fireflies shamble past. The sky dims slowly; the sun prefers to do its setting on the other side of town. This deeper blue smells soft. The patterns in it rearrangeùhe cups another fly. (He likes to shake them dizzy in his hands, like dice, then throw them out for luck. They blink on helplessly then stagger from the sidewalk up and gone.) Sometimes the night arrives with liquor on its breath, twice-rinsed and chemical. Or hopped up, sparking a nervous shimmy. Or dangerously still, like his mother standing next to the stove, a Bible verse rousing her pursed lips. He knows what gin is made fromù berries blue. He knows that Jesus Saves. (His father calls it Bitches' Tea.) And sistersùso many, their names fantastic, myriad as the points of a chandelier: Corinna, Violet, Mary, Fay, Suzanna, Kit, and Pearl. Each evening when they came to check his bed, he held his breath, and still he smelled the camphor and hair pomade. Saw foreheads sleek, spitcurl embellishing a cheek, lips soft and lashes spiked with vaseline. He waited to be blessed.          They were Holy Vessels, Mother said: each had to wait her Turn. And he, somehow, was part of the waiting, he was the chain. He was, somehow, his father. ... The latest victim won't get upùjust lies there in the middle of the walk illuminating the earth regular as breath. He stomps and grinds his anger in. Pulls his foot away and yellow streaks beneath the soleù eggyolk flame, lurid smear of sin.          Sisters, laughing, take his shoes away and bring them scraped and ordinary back. Idiots, he thinks. No wonder there's so many of them. But he can't sleep. All night beneath his bed, the sun is out. Depression Years Pearl can't stop eating; she wants to live! Those professors have it all backwards: after fat came merriment, simply because she was afraid to face the world, its lukewarm nonchalance that generationwise had set her people in a stupor of religion and gambling debts. (Sure, her mother was an angel but her daddy was her man.) Pearl laughs a wet red laugh. Pearl oozes everywhere. When she was young, she licked the walls free of chalk; she ate dust for the minerals. Now she just enjoys, and excess hardens on her like a shell. She sheens. But oh, what tiny feet! She tipples down the stairs. She cracks a chair. The largest baby shoe is neat. Pearl laughs when Papa jokes: Why don't you grow yourself some feet? Her mother calls them devil's hooves. Her brother doesn't care. He has A Brain; he doesn't notice. She gives him of her own ham hock, plies him with sweetened yams. Unravels ratted sweaters, reworks them into socks. In the lean years lines his shoes with newspaper. (Main thing is, you don't miss school.) She tells him it's the latest style. He never laughs. He reads. He shuts her out. Pearl thinks she'll never marry-- though she'd like to have a child. Painting the Town The mirror in the hall is red. Pearl giggles: Pretty as a freshly painted barn.She tugs a wrinkle down. Since she's discovered men would rather drown than nibble, she does just fine. She'd like to show her brother what it is like to crawl up the curved walls of the earth, or to be that earth--but he has other plans. Which is alright. Which is As It Should Be. Let the boy reach manhood anyway he can. Easter Sunday, 1940 A purity in sacrifice, a blessedness in shame.Lucille in full regalia, clustered violets and crucifix. She shoos a hornet back to Purgatory, rounds the corner, finds her son in shirtsleeves staring from the porch into the yard as if it were the sea. And suddenly she doesn't care. (Joe, after all, came home.) She feels as if she's on her back again, and all around her blushing thicket. Nightwatch. The Son. (Aggressively adult, they keep their lives, to which I am a witness. At the other end I orbit, pinpricked light. I watch. I float and grieve.) Freedom: Bird's-Eye View Singsong When I was young, the moon spoke in riddles and the stars rhymed. I was a new toy waiting for my owner to pick me up. When I was young, I ran the day to its knees. There were trees to swing on, crickets for capture. I was narrowly sweet, infinitely cruel, tongued in honey and coddled in milk, sunburned and silvery and scabbed like a colt. And the world was already old. And I was older than I am today. I Cut My Finger Once on Purpose I'm no baby. There's no grizzly man wheezing in the back of the closet. When I was the only one, they asked me if I wanted a night-light and I said yes ù but then came the shadows. I know they make the noises at night. My toy monkey Giselle, I put her in a red dress they said was mine onceùbut if it was mine, why did they yell when Giselle clambered up the porch maple and tore it? Why would Mother say When you grow up, I hope you have a daughter just like you if it weren't true, that I have a daughter hidden in the closetùsomeone they were ashamed of and locked away when I was too small to cry. I watch them all the time now: Mother burned herself at the stove without wincing. Father smashed a thumb in the Ford, then stuck it in his mouth for show. They bought my brother a just-for-boys train, so I grabbed the caboose and crowned himùbut he toppled from his rocker without a bleat; he didn't even bleed. That's when I knew they were robots. But I'm no idiot: I eat everything they give me, I let them put my monkey away. When I'm big enough I'll go in, past the boa and the ginger fox biting its tail to where my girl lies, waiting ... and we'll stay there, quiet, until daylight finds us. (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Rita Dove. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Cameosp. 11
July, 1925
Night
Birth
Lake Erie Skyline, 1930
Depression Years
Homework
Graduation, Grammar School
Painting the Town
Easter Sunday, 1940
Nightwatch. The Son
Freedom: Bird's-Eye View
Singsongp. 27
I Cut My Finger Once on Purposep. 28
Parlorp. 30
The First Bookp. 31
Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967p. 32
Freedom: Bird's-Eye Viewp. 34
Testimonialp. 35
Dawn Revisitedp. 36
Black on a Saturday Night
My Mother Enters the Work Forcep. 39
Black on a Saturday Nightp. 40
The Musician Talks about "Process"p. 42
Sundayp. 44
The Camel Comes to Us from the Barbariansp. 46
The Venus of Willendorfp. 48
Incarnation in Phoenixp. 51
Revenant
Best Western Motor Lodge, AAA Approvedp. 55
Revenantp. 56
On Veronicap. 57
There Came a Soulp. 58
The Peach Orchardp. 60
Against Reposep. 62
Against Self-Pityp. 63
Gotterdammerungp. 64
Ghost Walkp. 66
Lady Freedom Among Usp. 69
For Sophie, Who'll Be in First Grade in the Year 2000p. 71
On the Bus with Rosa Parks
Sit Back, Relaxp. 75
"The situation is intolerable"p. 76
Freedom Ridep. 77
Climbing Inp. 78
Claudette Colvin Goes to Workp. 79
The Enactmentp. 81
Rosap. 83
QE2. Transatlantic Crossing. Third Dayp. 84
In the Lobby of the Warner Theatre, Washington, D.C.p. 86
The Pond, Porch-View: Six P.M., Early Springp. 88
Notesp. 91
Acknowledgmentsp. 93

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