#SusanCerulean: I Have Been Assigned The Single Bird

[please find PoEtrY fRiDaY links at the end]

Susan Cerulean: I Have Been Assigned The Single Bird

Earlier this week on another page here, I honored the “good trouble” created by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who as a young man in segregated Alabama, was positively influenced by Rosa Parks and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

This page turns to a “good trouble” activist in Florida for environmental justice. She is Susan Cerulean. Maybe your Florida kayak glide, escorted above by a fish-hunting osprey, brought you to love this confounding state where I live. Or perhaps your Florida habit began via books by Zora Neale Hurston, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God, or with Oranges by John McPhee, or any of the several books of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, such Hurricane or her best-known, Everglades, River of Grass. Or, perhaps your student brought home from the school library, the rambunctious Florida eco-warrior Skink in the YA novel Skink, No Surrender, a character first crafted years ago in his adult fiction, by Carl Hiaasen.

Whatever the reason you commune with the idea of Florida, please look for the works of our state’s excellent, revered, unique literary eco-definer and eco-defender, Susan Cerulean.

I don’t often depart from children’s literature, especially poetry, as my theme at this site. But please pay attention to an extraordinary new double-memoir, I Have Been Assigned The Single Bird, (University of Georgia Press.) Susan Cerulean movingly blends her care for Florida and its ecosystems, including nesting terns that like to lay eggs where tourists tromp, with her care for her beloved Father, who like so many, migrates to Florida from elsewhere. In this case, from New Jersey.

 

I created a poem in celebration of her extraordinary story. I hope you will find some time for I Have Been Assigned The Single Bird. The birth of it brings a unique author-opportunity next week.  (shared at the end with other resources)

 

Your assignment

 

How to know what it is.

 

Accompanied

by a brightening of the sky at the engaging moment.

Likely, not.

 

What is the assignment? 

Who is the assignment?  

 

The assignment may arrive

as a thin needle jab

of torreya tree you petted in a park

now stuck in pain under your fingernail

so that you can’t forget this struggling creature.

 

 

The assignment may arrive

when your diabetic neighbor calls from her doorway

as you take your nightly walk. At her front step, you learn

you are to dress her unending toe wound.

 

You can’t know the assignment in advance.

 

Just know, it will call.

~JGAnnino, 2020

 

 

I hope you will want to meet Susan Cerulean in a digital meet up 6 p.m. August 7.

Susan Cerulean photograph copyright, Jeff Chanton, all rights reserved

Sample the book in this review by novelist, poet, memoirist Trish (Pat) MacEnulty. Enjoy a feature on it by author and editor, Kathleen Laufenberg.

If you can encourage your library or bookstore or reading group to create an event for this book, contact Susan and please say I sent you.

full disclosure

In addition to her own writing, Susan Cerulean is an environmental nonfiction anthologist. She edited Milkweed Editions’ The Book of the Everglades, which included my chapter, and, works from Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, Susan Orlean, the late famed sea turtle author-scientist Archie Carr, poet Lola Haskins, and longtime Miami Herald columnist and novelist Carl Hiaasen.

I have been friends and writing colleagues with Sue for more four decades. And following I Have Been Assigned The Single Bird, I’ve a hope for what’s next between her book covers  ~ Ursus, which walk, feed, birth and die here in crazy Florida, barely.

:::::::

Poetry Friday is organized and cheered today from the pages of READING TO THE CORE.  Learn more about Poetry Friday from Renee M. LaTulippe. Please keep scrolling to leave your thought in the moderated comments box, with my appreciations.

 

 

happy birthday, Rosa Parks

this post is part of the Poetry Friday collection*

Dr. Carla D. Hayden photograph by JG Annino at FAMU, Tallahassee

introducing a new book, ROSA PARKS, In Her Own Words

I salute the Library of Congress staff and its director Dr. Carla D. Hayden, for unending reasons, including our national library’s collection of historical civil rights materials. This Bookseedstudio focus is on Rosa Parks, whose Feb. 4, 1913 birthday, as the Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement is remembered publicly in many areas, from the nation’s Capitol  south to Alabama and westward to California.

It’s also marked at home with awe by those of us who curl up with a riveting new read, generously leavened with photos I recognize immediately, from this exemplar’s historic timeline. Rosa on the bus. Rosa with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, Rosa on Dec. 1, 1955.

That day she paid her public bus fare, but wasn’t allowed to sit in an empty bus seat of her choosing, in Alabama. She was judged guilty, fined $10 and given 14 days hard city labor.

Source: aclualabama.org

 

Guilty, of being black where blacks, by local law, were denied access to tax-supported facilities.

A Landmark New Book

Because the Library of Congress received, archived and has made available, a massive collection of this incredible history-maker’s notes, kept by hand on single sheets and notebooks, and also her letters, essays, arrest details, bus boycott assignments, and other documents, a valuable, new Rosa Parks exhibit and book, beckons. It is Rosa Parks, In Her Own Words.

As noted by the book’s author Susan Reyburn, Rosa’s flowing cursive, which sprang from her expressive mind, bears witness in pencil and pen, across the backs of envelopes, paper pharmacy bags, small pocket calendars, assorted stationary, lined notebooks and other papers.

This pathfinder recorded events going back to age six, when she milked cows and picked cotton, created her first quilt, and stayed up all night fully clothed, ready to escape if needed, as white men, who often worked as law officers during the day, felt free to ravage black neighborhoods, burning buildings and flogging or killing black people found outside at night.

“Grandfather stayed up to wait for them to come to our house… 

We could not undress or go to bed at night. 

The doors and windows were boarded and nailed tight from inside.”

                                                                           Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

I trace my fingers over her handwriting and marvel at how fortunate this nation is to be the beneficiary of her bravery, her ideas and her positive civil disobedience actions. Can we have her calm proud gaze on one of our currencies?

Reading along in her moment-by-moment notes, I shout obscenities at her near-rapist, the night when teenage Rosa Louise McCauley babysits for a white couple.  A six-foot, 200-pound white bully, known to the white family, uses a con to get onto the back porch. He threatens Rosa for hours, as he guzzles liquor he has brought inside the house. He suggests sex for money. Read the heart-wrenching seesaw of keep away around a large upholstered chair. She won’t attempt escape, because of her duty to the white child asleep upstairs. The return of the couple ends the attack.

“I was not for sale. The U.S. Mint wouldn’t buy me, if he could offer it.”

             Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

 

From physically dangerous moments, to everyday insults, the story in Rosa Parks, In Her Own Words,  is as inspiring as any world civil rights leader’s memoir. Reading this led me to a poem:

Check Out The Book 
JG Annino
Oh, sure, gal. 
We got that book you want.
Yeah, I say for sure, right here.
Right here.
WHAT?
No. Now you know you can’t check it out, Rosa!
This is THE downtown li’bary.
You know your kind gotta check out over at your kind’s branch.
You don’t ever, why you can’t never, ever, all your life,
check out books here.
Next?
I say, STAND ASIDE, girl!
Why dear Miss Katrina, so good to see you.
And just how may it be my pleasure, to help?
c. 2020 JG Annino

 

Beyond Checking-out Books

Unarmed, without a bodyguard, Rosa Parks slipped into rural backwater communities of her state, as the top sexual assault investigator for the NAACP. She also collected other eye-witness experiences, such as of the school superintendent who refused to allow black children on a public schoolbus. And consider that all this is before she tests the limits of segregation of the tax-supported bus system.

On Dec. 14, 2019 in Tallahassee, I was fortunate to have placed in my hands by The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the freshly released book, ROSA PARKS, In Her Own Words. 

Dr. Hayden delivered powerful words at the Florida A & M University commencement. And I also am grateful to my longtime friend and mentor, Librarian-educator Lenita Joe, retired, who was a kind bridge to my attendance at a post-graduation, local friends’ conversation with Dr. Hayden, who was born in Our Town. I expect to report on that in a later post.

Some 90 years after young Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was denied a book at her main library branch, her hand-written words, notes, documents, photographs, detailing little-known aspects of her personal civil rights history, dwell in the new nonfiction book ROSA PARKS, In Her Own Words, a book on paper, on-line and in glorious exhibit, showcased in an exhibit created by this nation’s most important public library open to all – THE. LIBRARY. OF. CONGRESS.

C. The Library of Congress

Find the book in many locations, including here.

Several pages of the Library of Congress exhibit are designed for families and schools.

If you write or podcast about this book or visit the exhibit in person or online, leave a link. I expect to further share the book and my poem at Tallahassee’s My Favorite Books’ open mic. night.
Jan Godown Annino/ February 2020
AND some past related articles

Bookseedstudio has several times visited the Library of Congress with joy, including here and here.

And again, happy happy birthday, dear Rosa Louise McCauley Parks! We love you. We thank you.

C. all rights reserved, The Library of Congress

  • here is more detail on the Poetry Friday collection that occurs in Kidlitosphere – you may want to join in.