By Stephen Roger Powers
Pigeon Forge raised Dolly
up on eagle’s wings, and she flew
on those wings of an eagle while
the eagle stared down its nest at the front of the float
and followed it like a donkey after a carrot.
When the parade was over,
Dolly took the stairs through the eagle’s tail
feathers, and popped out the back
like an Easter egg.
Rocks, an inflatable dinghy, and fresco rapids
rushed forth a lifeguard station
with baywatchful Dolly waving a floatation
board and singing along to her own songs.
She lifted the hem of her red swim
skirt and blew one of the cherry
whistles sewn around it. Policemen
blocked the end where she got off,
so I traffic-sulked to Ole Smoky
Distillery, where I drowned
in samples of every flavor.
Ole Smoky was the first stop this year.
The guy in overalls who gave me free
cherries sanitized his hands
with White Lightnin’. By the time
I got to the parade, I was corned
for engine-and-ladder Dolly with blazing
spangle-sparkles on her hat.
Her nieces sat with fake
fireworks at the front of the roller-coaster
float. Some of Dolly’s hair stuck
in her lipstick. She pulled it free
and blew a kiss in one motion.
Dreams came true when Dolly, garnished in red
with gold trim, jack-in-the-boxed from a cake,
her great big yellow wig a flaming candle.
Her beefcake bodyguard hollered at the drone following.
It hovered off backwards like a scared puppy
because she posed her arms at it spread wide
for a picture. Sometimes I wonder if she gets tired
of waggling her hands this way, then that,
this way again, that way again.
My Tennessee cousin, some unknown
number of removes, called my new
Dollywood Gold Pass a roller coaster license.
The woman working the photo
booth took my picture for it a half-smile,
wind-disheveled second before I was ready. Six o’clock,
out paraded laced-up Dollyized lumberjack boots,
icepick heels more honed than usual. Dolly’s fashion
assistant fastened a seatbelt around Dolly’s waist.
A gristmill float or a riverboat float?
Depends how you looked at the paddle wheels
turning on each side. Blue and white
streamers were fluttery water fill-ins. Either way,
Dolly sat high enough to mark twain.
Antibiotics pinholed my right hip.
“If I take it easy do you think I could
go to Pigeon Forge on Friday
for Dolly’s annual parade?”
Steroids pricked my left hip.
“But you don’t understand—”
No Dolly Parton on account of doctor’s orders.
Four months in advance Dolly
announces after 32 years grand
marshaling she will step
down. Social media smells
a conspiracy, because Dolly is guilty
of having stood between Lily and Jane
at the Emmys. Cal Ripken Jr.
will ride a mountain-mural
guitar. A giant baseball will roll
behind him. Maybe next year
the resonant frequency of everyone in the
world singing a Dolly song
at once will parade Dolly
out once more.
About the Author: Stephen Roger Powers started writing poetry almost twenty years ago to pass time in the middle of the night when he was too energized to sleep after coming off the stage in comedy clubs around the Midwest. He is the author of The Follower’s Tale and Hello, Stephen, both published by Salmon Poetry. Other work has appeared in 32 Poems, Shenandoah, The Southern Poetry Anthology Volume V: Georgia, Rabbit Ears: TV Poems, and Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems. He hasn’t done stand-up in a long time, but every once in a while he finds avenues for the performer he was born to be. He was an extra in Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton, and he can be seen if you know just where to look.