Steve Scafidi

Ode to Rosa Parks

In the forests of Alabama where pine trees crowd the air and scrape
the blue sky raw and heat sifts down a few degrees
where green moss creeps on stones and crawls over the earth,
I will bet all I ever loved that just below the surface here you will find
the bones of men smashed by roots and the gray rinds
of the skulls of women broken open like sudden storms one at a time
over the brutal Southern course of years and you could populate
three or four medium-sized towns with the bodies lost
in the forests outside Montgomery Alabama and forty-five years of
clear starry nights have passed over these pines since that afternoon
in December in 1955 when you risked the sudden
rage of whites who mobbed up at a moment’s notice and the midnight
cruelties of Alabama were practiced so well so often that the smallest
act of defiance was a matter of life and death and you
did not move to the back of the bus as you were told to and it was
dangerous, always dangerous, to have any courage in the South,
just to open your mouth, or to breathe in and out,
and you did not move to the back of that bus on Cleveland Avenue,
Secretary of an Alabama chapter of the NAACP, Lady Courageous,
Rosa Parks, sitting in that seat you saved us
the difficult sweet word free.

Steve Scafidi
Ode to Rosa Parks is reprinted from Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer (LSU, 2001).
Poem, copyright © 2001 by Steve Scafidi
Appearing on From the Fishouse with permission
Audio file, copyright © 2005, From the Fishouse