When I was teaching last summer at Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference in Vermont, I got to tour the Robert Frost cabin and also walk an interpretive trail where poems by Frost have been printed on metal signs and posted along the way. A small incident happened at the poem “The Road Not Taken” and I’ve written about it. This is my offering to you today. I guess it’s about never giving up hope. Also, it’s about the depths of beauty and meaning that poetry has brought to my life, and how I’d want that for all of us.
What does the sign say?
the small child asked her grandmother.
It’s a long poem, the grandmother replied.
Will you read it? the child asked.
Her sunglasses, her backpack,
her shoes were all plastic.
Are you going to stand still
while I read the whole thing?
asked the grandmother (short-haired).
The child promised.
So the woman began: Two roads diverged…
I tiptoed past.
The trail in Robert Frost’s woods
had not yet bent in the undergrowth
when the first stanza ended and
the child quickly asked for a snack.
It’s strange how the ferns
and wild carrot went blurry for me.
I felt as if, in that moment, something
was permanently lost.
The child is young, I told myself.
The words are confusing.
I knew it, the grandmother said.
I knew you wouldn’t listen.
But she didn’t know.
So much can happen in a stanza.
A child can catch her first glimpse
of a yellow wood wherein a trail
loops back on itself and
something a person never knows
missing can at long last be found.