by Rita Dove
The parrot is, perhaps even more than the parsley itself, the driving symbol of the poem. It appears over and over again, first in a kind of vague way ("there is a parrot" – where? Dunno. Oh wait! "In the palace," which we don't really know anything about yet), and then in a very specific way as the pet bird of a vicious dictator. One of the things that's so important about the parrot is that it's beautiful and bright green, which ties it to both the thing that it's imitating – spring – and to the title of the poem.
For Dove, the parrot symbolizes a ton of very important things. First, the parrot represents the irony of beauty – the fact that beauty continues to persist through horror, just like how new plants will show up in spring despite whatever else might be going on in the world. The parrot also symbolizes wealth (it's a pampered pet), and it symbolizes slavery (the caging of something that is independent and should be free). That's a lot of weight to be hanging on something with hollow bones, but there you have it. The parrot is a big deal.
- Lines 1-2: First instance of the parrot, and immediately it's paralleled with spring in a kind of bizarre way – "imitating spring." Hm. That's probably because the parrot's green. Actually, it's "parsley green," which is both pretty (after all, parsley's a pretty plant) and kind of devastating (we know from Dove's note that "parsley" is the word that will occasion the death of 20,000 Haitians).
- Lines 6-7: Now we have a simile in which the bird is compared to the "we" (the Haitian cane workers), who are "lying down screaming." We happen to think that the simile refers more to the second part of that sentence, in which the rain brings things up green again. But the violence is already creeping up here.
- Lines 17-18: Now the parrot and blood come together in the same sentence. The parrot has gone from a simple beautiful thing to something that is always accompanied by violence and death.
- Lines 32-35: First instance of the parrot in a cage. This is when we learn that the bird's exotic (it came from Australia) and that it's being personified as "coy," or deliberately shy. This makes it seem kind of phony, or annoying, even.
- Lines 60-62: Now the parrot is fully a parody – something entirely fake, something making a mockery of something else – of spring, as it finishes eating. (The parrot's been given pastries, which, when the sugarcane workers can barely afford to live, is a horrible parody [and/or irony] in and of itself.)