Thursday, October 7, 2010

#12 - Do you know a poem well enough to recite it to me? Will you?

Ok, so as I've said before, Robert Fulghum is the most awesome guy ever, as evidenced by my sucking up, here. A list of questions appears in his most recent book of essays, "What On Earth Have I Done?" Here, in his words, is a brief explanation for the list:

"Several years ago I made a list of questions to carry in my wallet.
I thought of the list as a conversation lifeboat.

There are those who seem to shine in the social arena of small-talk.
I am not one of them. I do not know why. But it is the case.

The list was meant to keep me afloat in the company of strangers while traveling, or at cocktail parties, receptions, potlucks, banquets, and any occasion featuring white wine and finger food in a milling crowd.

I share these lists with you with the hope that you may use them yourself.

If your experience matches mine, you will frequently be astonished by the richness that lies close at hand. You will likely find, as I have, that your opinion of what a stranger was like on first impression is not only shallow but wrong. Or that you still have much to learn from people you think you know well.

We are - all of us - treasure houses of ideas, dreams, hopes, fears, knowledge, imagination and experience. It doesn’t take much to get into these safe deposit boxes in the minds and hearts and souls of our companions.

Just ask. That you, in turn, may be asked."

It is my intention to address these questions, in no particular order.

12. Do you know a poem well enough to recite it to me? Will you?

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it ended in undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though, as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh I kept the first for another day
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I, I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference

I committed that poem to memory when I was in the seventh grade. I typed it, just now, from memory. By the way, it's harder to type a poem than simply to say it in your head. This is the only poem I've memorized for any length of time, but it touched my heart the first time I read it. And it has been a sort of touchstone for me, all these years. In my darkest times, I have repeated it in my head; it's a calming device, I guess.

Reading it now - really reading it, not just looking at the words I already know - it touches me again. I've always taken the road that is "grassy and wanted wear." I've never done things the easy way, and much of my life has felt like a struggle to have just what comes easily to everyone else. And there have been times I've been resentful, and bitter, and angry. But now, thinking of where I am today, what I have in my life today, I'd do it all again.

Taking the road I did has made all the difference. Oh, and the English teacher who introduced me to Robert Frost (and influenced me beyond any other teacher)? I'm having dinner with her next week.

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