Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 19, 2013

Frost, Not Blake

Someone once asked me, “How do you write a poem?”  Well, first of all, I am not sure that I have ever written a poem.  What I mean is this:  I have written things that rhyme.  And I have written things that scan; things that are split into stanzas, too.  I have written things that use odd words in odd places.  And, some people I know who have read these things have called them poems and told me that I write poems.

I’m not sure.

So, keep that in mind as you read what follows on.

The other day someone I know sent me a poem written by a big deal poet.  “Write something better than this,” he said.  The poem was “Tyger, Tyger Burning Bright.”  Smiling a big smile I answered, “OK.”

About ten minutes later I looked out of one of the windows upstairs and saw several things: snow on the ground, a woodpile and a woodpecker pecking away at one of the logs in the pile.  Woodpeckers and Titmice WelcomeThere were no “Tygers”, and no fires, and no forests.  But I thought about what I saw and remembered being at the pile a few days ago before a storm carrying armloads of logs inside for warm fires while  the place got blanketed.   All of a sudden…  Really, all of a sudden… four lines fell out of my brain into my lap; four lines that sounded like four lines of a poem.  These were the lines:

Crossing the yard in the snow
To where the wood against the fence is stacked
The snow is deep, the going slow
My right hip hurts, so does my back.

I said to myself, that doesn’t sound like Blake.  It sounds more like Frost.  I used to have a book of all of Frost’s poem, but it was lost a long time ago.  Pity, that.

While sitting at the table eating breakfast I wrote down the lines above on a little pad of paper I found somewhere.  One or two more suggested themselves and these were added.  It looked like a poem.  Was it?  It certainly was not from my point of view.  It was an incomplete something.  Then I went about my business for the rest of the day.  That was Saturday.  Sometime Sunday afternoon I scribbled a few more lines, and then Monday morning, before my wife, God love her, had a chance to say no, I read her what I had written, and called it finished.

Here is the thing she heard:
Wood Waits
(Frost, not Blake)

Crossing the yard in the snow
To where the wood against the fence is stacked
The snow is deep, the going slow
My right hip hurts, so does my back.

The wood I cut last spring waits.
Cut wood stacked against a fence
Is like that.  It knows its place
And will not move until carried thence

The old bow saw I used to cut
The trees dropped last year by the storm
Served well, but now its blade shows rust.
There’s a titmouse on the pile hunting worms.

My gut’s got bugs, my weak legs worms
But I still move toward wood and fence
The little worker hears leaping for the sky
And I follow him who bears my heart hence.

She smiled when it was finished.  “Well?” I asked.  “It’s not your best.  It’s nice enough,” she said walking away with her tea

Yeah.  I know.  Hallmark.  Hallmark with a big helping of The Dead End Kids.

But what the heck.  My friend was from New York, too, and my age.  He’d get a kick out of it, and probably call the whole thing a lemon.  On the way upstairs to type it into this infernal machine another line dropped out of my head.  By the time I got to typing the thing had changed.  Now the last bit looked like this:

I stop for a breath and catch his bright black eye
Then move again toward wood and fence
The little worker starts – leaps into the sky
And I follow him who bears my heart hence.

Still Hallmark, but the Dead End Kids have gone.  As a matter of fact, it is way too Hallmark for anyone.  That last line would embarrass Jane Austen.  But, it was done.

Well, no, because I wanted to send the thing to some other folks I know and felt a little too embarrassed.  Yesterday, Monday, I sat looking at the thing on the screen; looking at it like some lady might look at her hair just before a date, and not like the way that curl fell just there; looking at it like some guy might look at bush he’d just moved and not like how close it was to the tree.  And, so, I moved the curl and replaced the bush.

Now it looks like this:

Wood Waits
(Frost, not Blake)

Crossing the yard in the snow
To where the wood against the fence is stacked
The snow is deep, the going slow
My right hip hurts, so does my back.

The wood I cut last spring waits.
Cut wood stacked against a fence
Is like that.  It knows its place
And will not move until carried thence

The old bow saw I used to cut
The trees dropped last year by the storm
Served well, but now its blade shows rust.
There’s a titmouse on the pile hunting worms.

I stop for a breath and catch his bright black eye
Then move again toward wood and fence.
The little worker starts – leaps into the sky
Away from me old, crippled, bent.

The titmouse?  That’s poetic license, and just a touch of Hallmark.

My wife, God love her, says, “It’s nice dear.  It’s not your best one.”  It’s Frost, not Blake.  And, a little Hallmark.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I liked the second version best, but, that’s just me. 😉

    By the way, you ARE a poet. At your age, you should know you came into this life as God’s poetry and, you will be for eternity.

    Ok, remind me of that when I’m fussing because I’ve got the double burden of poetry and visual art (visual poetry, maybe?).

    Thanks for sharing the creative process.

    Big Hugz,

    Ritagail

    • Thank you, RG. I appreciate that.


Categories

%d bloggers like this: