Saturday, April 15, 2017

Learning poetry from a country road #NPM17

When I was young, I lived in one of Boston's neighborhoods and, for several years, in a southern suburb of the city. Each of those places had sidewalks suitable for following today's suggested way to celebrate National Poetry Month, "Chalk a poem on the sidewalk." Where we've lived for the past quarter century has no sidewalks. Gravel roads rarely do.

I remember from my younger days, hopscotch squares chalked on sidewalks, but no poetry. There was also the occasional childish insult chalked in front of someone's house, but that rarely, if ever, involved verse, let alone poetry. In keeping with the ephemeral nature of chalk on sidewalks, these days I could try using a stick to write in the road's dirt base. Then again, people almost never walk on gravel roads. They drive tractors, trucks, cars or atvs, or, sometimes, ride horses. It's hard to read most roadside poems if you're traveling at 40 miles an hour or looking from horseback height.

poetry on a country road
poetry on a country road
Photo by J. Harrington

The few who walk country roads enjoy reading a poetry written naturally by the countryside. It may be seeing the first appearance of day lily flower buds, or hearing a cardinal's song in a treetop. Maybe it's glimpsing a hog nose snake in roadside grasses, or marigolds in bloom where the road crosses a creek. Countryside poetry is even more ephemeral than urban sidewalk chalk writing and perhaps that makes it precious as another place

Where the Sidewalk Ends 
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.      


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