… Poems of victimage, told from the viewpoint of the victim alone, are the stock-in-trade of mediocre protest writing, and they appear regularly in African-American literature. The position of victimage, and victimage alone, seems imaginatively insufficient to Dove, since it takes in only one half of the poem’s world. That half has of course great pathos, and we hear that pathos in the song she writes for the Haitian cane-cutters. … [Vendler quotes the first section of "Parsley."] …Dove characteristically opens a poem with an oblique and unexplained sentence. The ineluctable appearance of the fast-growing sugar-cane, no matter how often it is cut down, is enacted, musically, in the exhausting preciseness of the phrase "the cane appears"; but its recurrent drone is sharply countered by the menacing appearance of the "General," who, so to speak, will not permit the natural (if enslaving) villanelle-song to continue.
… [Vendler quotes from the second section of "Parsley."] The General’s sense of certain Spanish words has been permanently eroticized by their association with his mother, and, as obsessed by language as any poet, he kills to defend his mother’s honor. Rita Dove, in a feat of sympathetic imagination, enters the white dictator’s mind, and conjectures a sinisterly plausible motive for the mass executions of blacks based on a bizarre word-test. Dove’s stanzaic imitation of Trujillo’s disintegrating yet fanatically circling monologue is a wonderful piece of prosodic mortise-and-tenon work.