National Poem in Your Pocket Day

Yesterday morning as I was drawing out the last of the Mr. Bear embroidery blocks, I heard this story on NPR.  Here's is the link so you can listen for yourself.  (It's short.)

Yes, actually, that is me with my radio.  (I told you I'm from the 14th Century.)  It seems today is National Poem in your Pocket Day and so it seems only fitting that I should share a poem from my pocket with you.

There were many good teachers in my educational background, including Mrs. Judy Kern, my 9th grade speech and drama teacher, who turned me into a poetry lover with her wonderful talent for reading poems aloud.  She introduced me and the rest of my class to some fabulous poets and poems and kept us spellbound with her dramatic interpretations read aloud.  For that, Mrs. Kern, I salute you wherever you are.  Thank you for being my teacher so many years ago. . . even if you did make me write 100 times "I will not chew gum or eat other candy in Mrs. Kern's drama class ever again."  (I got the "or eat other candy" part of that sentence for protesting that I wasn't chewing gum, but eating candy.)

As I sat doing my embroidery yesterday morning, I considered my favorite poems and finally settled on "Birches", by Robert Frost, who remains one of my favorite poets.  While there are many others including Ogden Nash, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Kahlil Gibran, Omar Khayyam, Edgar Lee Masters, and Carl Sandburg (and all the other ones I'm leaving out), I chose "Birches" for the picture it paints in my mind and for the way it, amazingly, fills all of my senses despite being in just two dimensions on the printed page.  I hope you enjoy it too.


When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Source: The Poetry of Robert Frost (1969)

3 comments from clever and witty friends:

Teresa in Music City said...

Oh my.... whispering.... that was just simply lovely, and a graceful way to start my day. Many thanks for sharing the poem in your heart this morning!

Andrea said...

What a nice poem for you to share with us! Thanks so much!
Aloha, Andrea

quiltzyx said...

Cashmere hills filled with evergreens
Flowin' from the clouds down to meet the sea
With the granite cliff as a referee
Crimson sunsets and golden dawns
Mother deer with their newborn fawns
Under Big Sur skies and that's where I belong.

Big Sur I've got plans for you
Me and mine are going to
Add ourselves to your lengthy list of lovers
And live in canyons covered with a springtime green
While birds and flowers to be heard and seen
And on my old guitar I'll make up songs to sing.
Sparklin' springs from the mountainside
Join the Big Sur river rushing to the tide
Where my kids can search for sea shells at low tide
Big Sur my astrology it says that I am meant to be
Where the rugged mountain meets the water

And so while stars shine brightly and up above
Fog rolls in through a redwood grove
And to my dying fire I think I'll add a log.

"California Saga: Big Sur"
by Mike Love