Prelude: Rosa Parks at Her Booking, by Val Nieman

Val Nieman

Now, isn’t this a moment –
The policeman takes my hand as gentle
and respectful as you please (though I suspect he doesn’t).
You might just say it’s the uniform or the office,
or familiarity with the task, how many
fingers he’s set to ink and then to paper.

Every finger has a print only to itself, they say,
but I wonder if there is some difference
black to white, like nap of hair or curve of lip.
If you jumbled the cards, could anyone say
this soul belongs in the front of the bus
and that, by this arabesque, in the back?

He takes my pointer and presses it down,
rolls it side to side,
white on black, black on white.
A piano teacher might take my fingers,
place them so, so, and so
before the first note is struck.

(Previously published in Crab Creek Review)

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