Thursday, October 22, 2015

Spare him the leap

This week a tangle in the autumn garden: wild strawberries run amuck,
something called Society Garlic, which you don't eat, either--
and just the tips of Lilies of the Nile, their strap-shaped leaves.
All these things we planted, but they have been left to fend for themselves
while we were gone. I like this tangle, and gave it the Waterlogue treatment.


Leave the bars lying in the grass
Let all wanderers freely pass
Into the pasture now.

Gone are the fawn-shy heifers, gone
The little calf, almost a fawn
And the black two-year cow.

Leave the bars lying where they are
Let each black-triangled birch bar
Be white and triple warning:

One for all tender things that go,
One for the near and ultimate snow,
One for frost by morning.

In that first snow a frightened deer,
Swifter than snowfall, swift as fear,
May pass here flying, flying.

What if no fence could spoil his speed?
Spare him the leap, spare him one need
Of leaping. Leave the bars lying.

Robert Francis

The Voice That Is Great Within Us; 
American Poetry of the Twentieth Century
edited by Hayden Carruth, Bantam, 1970, pages 233-234.

I was not familiar with this poet, until I found this. Now I will be looking into his Selected Poems. This poem in six small stanzas has a gently tricky rhyme scheme, good metrical pulse, and an appealing central idea. And those slender birch trees which can be cut for fence rails ARE "black-triangled." Take a look.

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