by Rita Dove
Where It All Goes Down
Though Dove tries to keep it non-specific ("a place" and "a bench"), when you read about Rosa Parks it's difficult not to have some idea of setting. History's given us a leg up going into this poem, and Dove counts on that so she doesn't really have to explain where we are. We're in Montgomery and it's the 1950s. We may or may not be on that famous bus where Parks refused to give up her seat. We guess that based on line 1: "How she sat there" and lines 5–6: "its dream of a bench / to rest on." In fact, it's probably safe to say we move around little during the course of the poem (in the final stanza, Parks is standing up— "How she stood up"—instead of sitting down). Pinning the setting down isn't super-important to Rita Dove in this poem. The place she's focused on is the place in history that Parks will forever occupy.