01 December 2008

You don't know me, she said to the shooting star

Subway Parking Lot, Galax, Virginia
XM-Radio Call Center Cubicle, Galax, Virginia

A couple of Robert Frost poems that I like. Part of the power of the first poem hinges on the speaker's isolation, and whether or not the "and that was all" of the final line is enough; I suppose it has to be.

"After Apple Picking" is similarly ambiguous. It could mean a variety of things, depending on one's perspective--maybe not being equal to the harvests (of anything) we face in a life-time, not living up to the beauty and potential of the world? I like (like isn't really the right word) the line about not being able to "rub the strangeness from my sight." Certainly the way I often feel.

Of course, the lens begins to get a little foggy for most of us "midway through our journey of life." And part of maturing is accepting a limited harvest, a few mishandled fruit, that sight is always limited--and that sort of realization can make one weary and ready for a long sleep (if not the long sleep).

The second poem also brings to mind Radford University professor Charlie Brouwer's ladder sculptures. When I taught at RU, one of the places I used to go to escape the bustle was the lobby of Preston auditorium, where I would stand in the fractured light of the stained glass windows and spend a few minutes looking at Brouwer's "Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground," thinking about the peaks and valleys of my own life or maybe some lonesome character from a Flannery O'Connor or Breece Pancake story.

The Most of It

He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
From some tree–hidden cliff across the lake.
Some morning from the boulder–broken beach
He would cry out on life, that what it wants
Is not its own love back in copy speech,
But counter–love, original response.
And nothing ever came of what he cried
Unless it was the embodiment that crashed
In the cliff's talus on the other side,
And then in the far distant water splashed,
But after a time allowed for it to swim,
Instead of proving human when it neared
And someone else additional to him,
As a great buck it powerfully appeared,
Pushing the crumpled water up ahead,
And landed pouring like a waterfall,
And stumbled through the rocks with horny tread,
And forced the underbrush—and that was all.

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

2 comments:

Susan said...

Mark!

So i was browsing your last couple of postings and when I got to this one, I nearly shat myself because I know the kid on the far left of the top picture. Furthermore, there is quite the story there. Anyway, just thought you would enjoy knowing. Hope things are well and that we can go out shooting ourselves sometime soon!

Rose said...

'And there's a barrel that I didn't fill...'
I can relate. Anyway, it was funny to see you had taken a photo of something at work. I have to admit, some of the things that people hang in their cube do make you sit back and think.