By Linda Parsons
Sit down, sit down, sit down, sit down,
sit down, you’re rockin’ the boat.
—Frank Loesser, Guys and Dolls
Lo these many years,
I the peacemaker, the walker on eggshells,
the biter of lips, the please pleaser, the clay
not the molder, the stream not the bank,
the moss not the rock, the stern not the bow,
queen of if only I’d said, if only I’d done.
Lo I say unto you, I’m done with sit down,
sit down, done with the broom and its dust,
old love and its rust, the future walking right
out the door. Hear me, I’m here with a voice
from the gloom, the moon-filled room, rise
of wing to beat the band, however long
I must stand is how long I’ll rock,
rock, rock the boat.
Grab this, strike this,
be peace in the deafest of ears, be this,
if you can bear the whole of me holding
up half the sky’s the limit, be aware,
O beware the end is near, the end of silence
of reticence of swallowing it down, choking
on what can’t be told in mixed company.
I’ll be clearing my throat, unbending
my knee, strapping my heart to my sleeve.
The one speaking aloud who sings without
pause, the unturned cheek, the unshut eye,
who digs her heels in this wide-awake
moment and lets the mother tongue fly.
Linda Parsons is a poet, playwright, and an editor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She is the reviews editor for Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel and served as poetry editor of Now & Then magazine for many years. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Georgia Review, One, Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Shenandoah, in Ted Kooser’s column American Life in Poetry, and in numerous anthologies. This Shaky Earth is her fourth poetry collection (Texas Review Press). Parsons’s adaptation, Macbeth Is the New Black, co-written with Jayne Morgan, was produced at Maryville College and Western Carolina University, and her play Under the Esso Moon was read as part of the 2016 Tennessee Stage Company’s New Play Festival and received a staged reading in spring 2017.
Photo credit: Shivenis via a Creative Commons license.