by Rita Dove
For a poem about Rosa Parks, Dove doesn't go into a whole lot of detail about that famous day. Probably because anyone who knows even the very basics of the American Civil Rights Movement knows perfectly well what went down already (and if you're not too familiar, we've got you covered on that, too). Dove goes for a different angle, though. If this were a movie, we'd be watching this scene in slow-mo, probably on silent. At times the camera would zoom in to some detail on Parks—maybe her coat or purse—to create a serene but powerful mood.
Although Dove opens the poem with a sort of vague first stanza, we have enough historical background to know what's up. The first stanza sets the tone. The second and third stanzas focus more on Parks and try to get a little inside her head. She seems very still, not really doing anything except sitting there—it was a completely peaceful act of protest, after all—while cameras flash all around her and the surrounding crowd is probably in frenzy. The final stanza, still in keeping with the dramatic slow-mo, focuses in on some seriously simple action: Parks standing up while someone bends down to pick up her purse.
Sure, if this were a movie, it wouldn't exactly pack the action of a Bond flick, but luckily it's a poem, and it draws its strength from the well of history and the power of one person's simple actions.