Emily Sernaker

On the Bus with Rita Dove

It’s a twenty minute commute to Silver Spring
some suits but more families, tumbling on
and off with backpacks, braids, barrettes.
I’ve made it to my plastic seat but that’s all
I’ve done; passing a statue of lions, staring at
the hard grey morning.

Rita is wide awake of course, generous
as ever saying I can borrow a couple of books
from the Maple Valley Branch Library, share
a fox trot with her husband, tell her
daughter about womanhood.

She isn’t mean about it, but she thinks
I could try harder. There are buses
in Maryland with a plaque for Ms. Parks,
open seats for her that I haven’t seen

until now. She counts out the beats
for me: look up, look down,
move your pen. One two three,
one two three.


Rita Dove (August 28, 1952 – ) served as US Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995, a special consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 1999 to 2000, and Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. One of her ten books of poems is On the Bus with Rosa Parks (Norton, 1999). This poem also references Dove’s poem “Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967,” a sequence of poems about dancing from the book American Smooth (Norton, 2004), and poems about mothers and daughters from Mother Love (Norton, 1995).


Emily Sernaker is a writer and activist. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, GOOD Media, The New Ohio Review, Ms. Magazine and District Lines. She currently studies creative writing at Pacific University.