1. Directive

    Back out of all this now too much for us,
    Back in a time made simple by the loss
    Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off
    Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather,
    There is a house that is no more a house
    Upon a farm that is no more a farm
    And in a town that is no more a town.
    The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you
    Who only has at heart your getting lost,
    May seem as if it should have been a quarry—
    Great monolithic knees the former town
    Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered.
    And there’s a story in a book about it:
    Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels
    The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest,
    The chisel work of an enormous Glacier
    That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole.
    You must not mind a certain coolness from him
    Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain.
    Nor need you mind the serial ordeal
    Of being watched from forty cellar holes
    As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins.
    As for the woods’ excitement over you
    That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves,
    Charge that to upstart inexperience.
    Where were they all not twenty years ago?
    They think too much of having shaded out
    A few old pecker-fretted apple trees.
    Make yourself up a cheering song of how
    Someone’s road home from work this once was,
    Who may be just ahead of you on foot
    Or creaking with a buggy load of grain.
    The height of the adventure is the height
    Of country where two village cultures faded
    Into each other. Both of them are lost.
    And if you’re lost enough to find yourself
    By now, pull in your ladder road behind you
    And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me.
    Then make yourself at home. The only field
    Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall.
    First there’s the children’s house of make-believe,
    Some shattered dishes underneath a pine,
    The playthings in the playhouse of the children.
    Weep for what little things could make them glad.
    Then for the house that is no more a house,
    But only a belilaced cellar hole,
    Now slowly closing like a dent in dough.
    This was no playhouse but a house in earnest.
    Your destination and your destiny’s
    A brook that was the water of the house,
    Cold as a spring as yet so near its source,
    Too lofty and original to rage.
    (We know the valley streams that when aroused
    Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.)
    I have kept hidden in the instep arch
    Of an old cedar at the waterside
    A broken drinking goblet like the Grail
    Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it,
    So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t.
    (I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.)
    Here are your waters and your watering place.
    Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.


    by Robert Frost.

     
  2. Stars

    How countlessly they congregate
    O’er our tumultuous snow,
    Which flows in shapes as tall as trees
    When wintry winds do blow!—

    As if with keenness for our fate,
    Our faltering few steps on
    To white rest, and a place of rest
    Invisible at dawn,—

    And yet with neither love nor hate,
    Those starts like some snow-white
    Minerva’s snow-white marble eyes
    Without the gift of sight.


    By Robert Frost

     
  3. Rereading Frost

    Sometimes I think all the best poems
    have been written already,
    and no one has time to read them,
    so why try to write more?

    At other times though,
    I remember how one flower
    in a meadow already full of flowers
    somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

    as you get to the top of a hill
    in Colorado, say, in high summer
    and just look down at all that brimming color.
    I also try to convince myself

    that the smallest note of the smallest
    instrument in the band,
    the triangle for instance,
    is important to the conductor

    who stands there, pointing his finger
    in the direction of the percussions,
    demanding that one silvery ping.
    And I decide not to stop trying,

    at least not for a while, though in truth
    I’d rather just sit here reading
    how someone else has been acquainted
    with the night already, and perfectly.


    By Linda Pastan

     
  4. Acquainted with the Night

    I have been one acquainted with the night.
    I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
    I have outwalked the furthest city light.

    I have looked down the saddest city lane.
    I have passed by the watchman on his beat
    And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

    I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
    When far away an interrupted cry
    Came over houses from another street,

    But not to call me back or say good-bye;
    And further still at an unearthly height,
    One luminary clock against the sky

    Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
    I have been one acquainted with the night.


    By Robert Frost

     
  5. The Gift Outright

    The land was ours before we were the land’s.
    She was our land more than a hundred years
    Before we were her people. She was ours
    In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
    But we were England’s, still colonials,
    Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
    Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
    Something we were withholding made us weak
    Until we found out that it was ourselves
    We were withholding from our land of living,
    And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
    To the land vaguely realizing westward,
    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    By Robert Frost

     
  6. Dedication

    Summoning artists to participate
    In the august occasions of the state
    Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
    Today is for my cause a day of days.
    And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise
    Who was the first to think of such a thing.
    This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
    Goes back to the beginning of the end
    Of what had been for centuries the trend;
    A turning point in modern history.
    Colonial had been the thing to be
    As long as the great issue was to see
    What country’d be the one to dominate
    By character, by tongue, by native trait,
    The new world Christopher Columbus found.
    The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
    And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
    Elizabeth the First and England won.
    Now came on a new order of the ages
    That in the Latin of our founding sages
    (Is it not written on the dollar bill
    We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
    God nodded his approval of as good.
    So much those heroes knew and understood,
    I mean the great four, Washington,
    John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
    So much they saw as consecrated seers
    They must have seen ahead what not appears,
    They would bring empires down about our ears
    And by the example of our Declaration
    Make everybody want to be a nation.
    And this is no aristocratic joke
    At the expense of negligible folk.
    We see how seriously the races swarm
    In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
    They are our wards we think to some extent
    For the time being and with their consent,
    To teach them how Democracy is meant.
    “New order of the ages” did they say?
    If it looks none too orderly today,
    ‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start
    So in it have to take courageous part.
    No one of honest feeling would approve
    A ruler who pretended not to love
    A turbulence he had the better of.
    Everyone knows the glory of the twain
    Who gave America the aeroplane
    To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
    Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
    Glory is out of date in life and art.
    Our venture in revolution and outlawry
    Has justified itself in freedom’s story
    Right down to now in glory upon glory.
    Come fresh from an election like the last,
    The greatest vote a people ever cast,
    So close yet sure to be abided by,
    It is no miracle our mood is high.
    Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
    Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.
    There was the book of profile tales declaring
    For the emboldened politicians daring
    To break with followers when in the wrong,
    A healthy independence of the throng,
    A democratic form of right devine
    To rule first answerable to high design.
    There is a call to life a little sterner,
    And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
    Less criticism of the field and court
    And more preoccupation with the sport.
    It makes the prophet in us all presage
    The glory of a next Augustan age
    Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
    Of young amibition eager to be tried,
    Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
    In any game the nations want to play.
    A golden age of poetry and power
    Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.


    By Robert Frost
    Written for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, Frost was unable to read this poem because the sun shining off the snow was too bright. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory.

     
  7. Good-Bye and Keep Cold

    This saying good-bye on the edge of the dark
    And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
    Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
    An orchard away at the end of the farm
    All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
    I don’t want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
    I don’t want it dreamily nibbled for browse
    By deer, and I don’t want it budded by grouse.
    (If certain it wouldn’t be idle to call
    I’d summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
    And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
    I don’t want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
    (We made it secure against being, I hope,
    By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
    No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
    But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
    “How often already you’ve had to be told,
    Keep cold, young orchard. Good-bye and keep cold.
    Dread fifty above more than fifty below.”
    I have to be gone for a season or so.
    My business awhile is with different trees,
    Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
    And such as is done to their wood with an axe—
    Maples and birches and tamaracks.
    I wish I could promise to lie in the night
    And think of an orchard’s arboreal plight
    When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
    Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
    But something has to be left to God.


    By Robert Frost

     
  8. The First Line is the Deepest

    I have been one acquainted with the spatula,
    the slotted, scuffed, Teflon-coated spatula

    that lifts a solitary hamburger from pan to plate,
    acquainted with the vibrator known as the Pocket Rocket

    and the dildo that goes by Tex,
    and I have gone out, a drunken bitch,

    in order to ruin
    what love I was given,

    and also I have measured out
    my life in little pills—Zoloft,

    Restoril, Celexa,
    Xanax.

    I have. For I am a poet. And it is my job, my duty
    to know wherein lies the beauty

    of this degraded body,
    or maybe

    it’s the degradation in the beautiful body,
    the ugly me

    groping back to my desk to piss
    on perfection, to lay my kiss

    of mortal confusion
    upon the mouth of infinite wisdom.

    My kiss says razors and pain, my kiss says
    America is charged with the madness

    of God. Sundays, too,
    the soldiers get up early, and put on their fatigues in the blue-

    black day. Black milk. Black gold. Texas tea.
    Into the valley of Halliburton rides the infantry—

    Why does one month have to be the cruelest,
    can’t they all be equally cruel? I have seen the best

    gamers of your generation, joysticking their M1 tanks through
    the sewage-filled streets. Whose

    world this is I think I know.

    By Kim Addonizio

     
  9. Nothing Gold Can Stay

    Nature’s first green is gold
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

    By Robert Frost