Academic  Integrity

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University of Idaho


Two poems by Rita Dove


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 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.


The Enactment

“I’m just a girl who people were mean to on a bus. . . . I could have been anybody.”

               --Mary Ware, nee Smith


Can’t use no teenager, especially

no poor black trash,

no matter what her parents do

to keep up a living.  Can’t use

anyone without sense enough

to bite their tongue.


It’s gotta be a woman,

someone of standing:

peferably shy, preferably married.

And she’s got to know

when the moment’s right.

Stay polite, though her shoulder’s

aching, bus driver

the same one threw her off

twelve years before.


Then all she’s got to do is

sit there, quiet, till

the next moment finds her—and only then

can she open her mouth to ask

Why do you push us around?

and his answer: I don’t know but

the law is the law and you

are under arrest.

She must sit there, and not smile

as they enter to cary her off;she must know who to call

who will know whom else to call

to bail her out . . . and only then


can she stand up and exhale

can she walk out the cell

and down the jail steps

into flashbulbs and

her employer’s white

arms—and go home,

and sit down in the seat

we have prepared for her.