I drove to Shaftsbury, VT, today to visit one of the houses in which poet Robert Frost lived. It was in this house — known as the Stone House — that he wrote “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Just as most of the classic Xmas albums were recorded in the summer, this quintessential winter poem was written in July.
In 1999, Jen and I lived just over the bridge from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. I played in a dance club on the island, and Jen taught ESL. There was a guy who frequented our club, and who was known to just about everyone who knew the island. He was your typical working-class islander, living the beach life to the best of his ability. He was a big reggae fan, and one morning, in the small hours, we was found dead outside a little reggae hideaway near the beach. This is his poem.
by Jason Crane
Waves examine the sand, retreat.
A bird nestles its head
The air holds a final sigh,
a letting out of breath from
the gritty sound
of reggae on worn vinyl
from a wooden shack
nestled in the trees
only a few feet away.
Bright smiles on black faces,
sweat on glasses of unlicensed beer.
Voices ease past the half-open door;
slip, unconcerned, into water.
Again, the waves glance at the sand;
the bird looks up, startled
by a dull wooden sound.
A head lolls against the tabletop —
spent, unknowing, spirit released.
He is found alone;
arms splayed out in
supplication, or exhaustion.
Our neighbors recently had a baby boy. This is the poem I wrote on the day he came home from the hospital.
by Jason Crane
Sunday morning —
Sweet soul music,
Archie Bell and the Drells
Canâ€™t stop dancing
While I sweep locust leaves
Off our porch.
Then itâ€™s Marvin Gaye with a
Soul sacrament, his own
Worship of the joined human form,
While I fill the recycling bin and pick up
The kidsâ€™ rockets and bouncy balls.
Across the street, a ceramic pelican
Heralds the arrival of a new
Who comes home from the hospital today.
The Stylistics sing a backdrop to
Dog walkers, leaf rakers,
And two brothers chasing each other
With a bright orange butterfly net.
Our rope swing sways in an autumn breeze
As the little one starts crying,
Not wanting to come inside.
Then a red Jeep rolls to a stop
From a speed so low that the brakes
Are barely needed.
The neighborhood is instantly alert.
A silent signal —
And the boys screaming â€œThe baby!â€ —
Brings everyone from their houses.
A dad (!) takes his first steps
Onto a driveway filled with new
Dangers and joys.
His wife slowly emerges from the passenger seat,
One hand on her lower back as she
Leans against the Jeep for support.
A circle of eager children is
Held at bay
By cautious parents.
A boon is granted —
A glimpse of tiny new life
Nestled in blankets,
All but covered by a striped hat.
Young Mr. Magoo has come home.
They slip past the pirate and the ghost
Suspended from the porch
In preparation for Halloween.
The door closes,
And the street lets out its breath.
Jen and I just got back from five days in San Francisco:
For Henry Grimes
in a plastic chair on
drinking water and watching
Below the surface,
to be surprised,
never knowing where
this note — here —
will take him.
he doesn’t find his way back
for a long time.
with his hands,
plucking and bowing his message,
going to the ritual and
inviting all to follow.
John F. Kennedy was inaugurated on this date in 1961. Robert Frost read a poem at the inauguration. He was planning to read a new piece called “Dedication,” but for one reason or another had trouble reading the printed poem. Instead, he recited “The Gift Outright” from memory. Here it is.
The Gift Outright
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia,
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.
— Robert Frost