At a long-ago event in the Redwood Forest,
where banana slugs were vigorously munching on dichondra sod
that had been laid especially for a wedding,
these three English teachers and friends of ours posed for my good camera.
They know who they are, I will not name them now. . . .
backroad leafmold stonewall chipmunk
underbrush grapevine woodchuck shadblow
woodsmoke cowbarn honeysuckle woodpile
sawhorse bucksaw outhouse wellsweep
backdoor flagstone bulkhead buttermilk
candlestick ragrug firedog brownbread
hill top outcrop cowbell buttercup
whetstone thunderstorm pitchfork steeplebush
gristmill millstone cornmeal waterwheel
watercress buckwheat firefly jewelweed
gravestone groundpine windbreak bedrock
weathercock snowfall starlight cockcrow
Robert Francis (1901-1987)
Robert Francis; Collected Poems 1936-1976,
University of Massachusetts Press, 1976, page 240.
I often mention that I love compound words. Imagine then my joy when I found this poem---in a used book that had been thrown away by the Chicago Public Library. Perhaps Robert Francis is most famous now for never having even been as famous as he probably deserved to be. He was mentioned approvingly in something (I have forgotten where or what) I read recently, so I got this book of his life's work. His other book is prose, apparently, about not having been famous, or even all that much noticed. Two books, I love this poem, the mostly rural sweep of it! Two of these words, shadblow and jewelweed, have enough meaning for me that I could write a blog post on each one. And probably will! Most of the compound words in this poem have two syllables, a few have three and only one is four syllables in length. And I think we should make more of them when writing poetry,
I want also to recommend again a small book of Mark Strands, Chicken, Shadow, Moon and More, which I discuss in this blog post. Strand uses the each small word over and over to create wonderful poems.