Sunday, May 6, 2012
Hot Sun / Cold Rain
A Robert Frost poem surfaced today, unbidden, from somewhere deep in my first-grade-teacher memory. I was thinking about how, in my ignorance (innocence?), I evicted that queen bumblebee from her nest by leaving it in the hot sun, a few posts back, and then about Julie Zickefoose's story of how she cares for her nestlings in cold rainy weather. Y'all, she makes “omelettes” for them. Don't take my word for it. Read it yourself. The ends to which JZ goes for her baby birds is a remarkable story.
These things were moiling I guess, because somehow I found myself leafing through poetry books for a verse I thought was called “The Exposed Nest.” Found it, wonder of wonders. Too bad RF didn't know about JZ's recipe for baby bird omelette.
The poem is exquisite, full of just-right turns of phrase. I have loved it in years past. Today it made my throat catch. And just now, typing the words made me "go all soppy," to quote the lovely New Zealand blogger, Jane Robertson.
I like to think Frost’s mother-bird did come back and was filled with gratitude. dkm
The Exposed Nest
You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But 'twas no make-believe with you today,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
'Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over
(Miraculously without tasting flesh)
And left defenseless to the heat and light.
You wanted to restore them to their right
Of something interposed between their sight
And too much world at once—could means be found.
The way the nest-full every time we stirred
Stood up to us as to a mother-bird
Whose coming home has been too long deferred,
Made me ask would the mother-bird return
And care for them in such a change of scene
And might our meddling make her more afraid.
That was a thing we could not wait to learn.
We saw the risk we took in doing good,
But dared not spare to do the best we could
Though harm should come of it; so built the screen
You had begun, and gave them back their shade.
All this to prove we cared. Why is there then
No more to tell? We turned to other things.
I haven't in my memory—have you?—
Of ever coming to the place again
To see if the birds lived the first night through,
And so at last to learn to use their wings.-Robert Frost