Parsley Poem by Rita Dove

parsley the cane fields there is a parrot imitating spring in the palace its feathers parsley green out of the swamp the cane appears to haunt us and we cut it down and in our eyes searches for a word he's all the world there is like a parrot imitating spring we lie down screaming as rain punches through and we come up green we cannot speak in art out of the swamp the cane appears and then the mountain we call in whispers catalina the children all their teeth to arrowheads there is a parrot imitating spring el general has found his word there a human who says it lives he laughs teeth shining out of the swamp the cane appears in our dreams lashed by wind and streaming and we lie down for every drop of blood there is a parent imitating spring out of the swamp the cane appears the palace the word the generals chosen is parsley it is fall when thoughts turned to love and death the general thinks of his mother how she died in the fall and he planted her walking game at the grave and had flowered each spring solidly forming four star blossoms the general pulls on his boots he stops to her room in the palace the one without curtains the one with a parrot in a brass ring as he faces he wonders who can I kill today and for a moment the little knot of screams be still the parrot who has traveled all the way from Australia in an ivory cage is coy as a widow practicing spring ever since the morning his mother collapsed in the kitchen while baking skull-shaped candies for the Day of the Dead the general has hated sweets he orders pastries brought up for the bird they arrive dusted with sugar on a better place the knocked and his throat starts to twitch he sees his boots the first day in battle splashed with mud and urine as a soldier falls at his feet amazed how stupid he looked that's the sound of artillery I never thought it would sing the soldier said and died now the general sees the fields of sugar cane lashed by rain and streaming he sees his mother's smile the teeth nod to arrowheads he hears the Haitians sing without ours as they swing the great machetes catallena they sing catalina me Madre mía Marlin wounded God knows his mother was no stupid woman she could roll and are like a queen even a parrot can roll in hard in the bare room the bright feathers arch in a parody of greenery as the last pale crumbs disappear under the that going to talk someone calls out his name in a voice so like his mother's a startled tear splashes the tip of his right boot my mother my love in death the general remembers the tiny green sprigs men of his village wore in their capes to honor the birth of a son he will order many this time to be killed for a single beautiful word

2 thoughts on “Parsley Poem by Rita Dove

  1. This poem is so good, gives me chills each time I hear it. The good kind.

  2. Convincing, arresting images and story line. The General is ruthless: 'As he paces he wonders/ who can I kill today?' The parrot and the parsley catch my attention throughout. A fine narrative poem.

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