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Archive for the ‘Robert Frost’ Category

Every Valentine’s Day I brainstorm for places that romantically-inclined or romantically-averse folks might congregate as they prepare for the holiday or prepare to avoid it. In the past I’ve left love poems in a chocolate store, post office, senior citizen’s home, a food court, a lonely-looking motel, the floral department of a grocery store. Now in my fourth year of Valentine’s Day poem-elfing, I think I need a location scout.

Here’s where this year’s crop of love poems landed:

 

At Victoria’s Secret, nestled in between the pink thongs and the pink brassieres, I left Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XVII,” a poem which speaks of loving someone “in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”

 

poem is on white shelf with the pale pink underwear

poem is on white shelf with the pale pink underwear

 

Funny that we used to call ladies’ underwear “intimates.” Victoria’s Secret intimates, however sexy, are no match for Neruda’s brand. The intimacy he’s after can’t be manufactured or marketed or purchased. He writes of a passionate love

so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand

so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

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I left Carl Sandberg’s “At a Window” on a stranger’s window at a transportation center.

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poem is on white car’s windshield

 

 

Presumably the stranger will return to the car after work, and I hope this universal wish for companionship and love is a balm and not an irritant:

…leave me a little love,

A voice to speak to me in the day end,

A hand to touch me in the dark room

Breaking the long loneliness.

 

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A Greyhound bus station seemed like a fine place for the decidedly unsentimental “First Love” by one of my favorites, Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska.

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poem is on white wall in foreground

 

 

First love, says Szymborska,

does what all the others still can’t manage:

unremembered,

not even seen in dreams,

it introduces me to death.

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Valentine’s Day is a great day to celebrate the love of friends. I taped Robert Frost’s “A Time to Talk” to the sign outside a neighborhood bar, always a good place for friends to gather.

 

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poem is on oval sign just under the small red oval on the right-hand side

 

 

In this age of distraction and shortened attention spans, what better way to show affection than setting aside your hoe, whatever your hoe may be (no naughty jokes, please) and taking time “for a friendly visit“?

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For anyone sadder but wiser who might need retail therapy on Valentine’s Day, I left “I Have Come to the Conclusion” by Nelle Fertig in the Macy’s purse department:

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poem is on the mirror

 

 

 

(Excuse the typos in the poem I left–too late for corrections.)

Fertig’s version of love is more cynical than my own. But I guess I’ve been fortunate not to have “broken a few/ very fine mirrors.”

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Finally, I left an excerpt from Roy Croft’s “Love” near my husband’s office outside a restaurant he likes. But he was out of town, so he’ll only see the poem here.

 

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poem is on lamp post

 

 

The restaurant is frequented by middle-aged couples and singles looking to be coupled, people old enough to appreciate what’s under the surface, who can understand the beauty of what Fertig expresses here.

 

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If none of these poems suit your mood or situation, take a look past Valentine poem-elfing in 2014, 2013, and 2012.

 

And spread love! Everyone has it, everyone needs it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

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Dust of Snow

by Robert Frost

 

 

The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

 

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

 

 

The Wall Street Journal reports that scientists have identified a new syndrome: Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome, also known as Sidewalk Rage, the eco-friendlier cousin to Road Rage.  Symptoms include muttering at other pedestrians, making insulting gestures (I’m not making this up–see the other 12 traits of P.A.S. here), and walking much faster than other people.

As humorists everywhere scramble to identify other Rage Syndromes (soon to come:  Dance Floor Rage, Bathroom Line Rage, and Cosmetic Counter Rage), I’m knee-deep in Snow Rage. Here in the Midwest, we’re all darned sick of snow.  We want to store our shovels, behead our neighbor’s snowman family, wear flip-flops.  Even with unseasonably warm temperatures that melt the snow from lawns and roofs, we feel only mild relief.  We know the snow is coming back.  It’s only February, after all.

When snow does return, try to remember early December (pardon me while I channel The Fantastiks) when snow was young and oh so lovely. Or re-read the last paragraph of James Joyce’s “The Dead” and let the snow falling faintly and faintly falling refresh your outlook.  Or even better, recite “Dust of Snow” till you’ve memorized it, and carry it around in your head for protection against S.R.

On my first few reads of this poem, I thought the rhyme and meter were a little heavy-handed, nearly taking over.  “Dust of Snow” is so sing-song that it sounds like a misconceived entry at a cheerleading competition. And in last place, all the way from New Hampshire, the Robert Frost Middle School Squad! But not a word is forced for the sake of rhyme or meter, and the central image is expressed so elegantly that the poem becomes meditative, haiku-like.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) was arguably America’s most beloved poet, four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, celebrated teacher at Middlebury College, and unofficial poet laureate of the United States, earning the previously unknown privilege of reading a poem at a presidential inauguration.  I’ve always thought of him as a Burl Ives’ kind of guy, avuncular and cheerful, growing apples in New England and writing sweet little nature poems.  But Frost lived through his share of darkness:  the early loss of his father, the deaths of four of his six children, and his own depression. He seems to have had a difficult personality and he wasn’t much of a farmer either.  And his poems, sweet though they may seem because of the traditional rhyme, are grounded by a dark spirit.

In the simplest of language, without a single adjective of adverb, Frost captures the beauty of the New England winter landscape and his own loneliness.  We see the black crow, the white snow, the green of the hemlock, and the solitary poet.  Then in the stillness and silence, the crow plays a little joke.  He drops snow on Frost.  The poet is jolted out of his sadness, renewed by encounter.  Just a few words, a little movement, and whoosh! everything’s better, at least temporarily.  For all the renewal of mood, the poem still ends on a dark note, a day I had rued.

I have my own mood-lifting hemlock tree experience.  Once I saw a sweet old fellow in my neighborhood, a man with a loping stride who walks for hours everyday, stop by a hemlock tree whose branches hung from a neighbor’s lawn deep into the street.  He pulled a needle off a branch and put it in his mouth.

I caught up to him.  “Did you really just eat something off that tree?” I asked.

“Yes, I did,” he said.  “It’s very refreshing!”*

Like Frost’s dust of snow, that pine needle lightened my day.

*(Don’t worry, my neighbor is still in good health.  Socrates was poisoned by the hemlock plant, not the tree.)

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