To Earthward

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Aug. 28 1997 3:30 AM

To Earthward

 

I suppose some readers will be surprised to find such a sexy, delicately doom-laden poem by Robert Frost as "To Earthward." In fact, Frost is a powerfully erotic writer, from early poems like "Mowing" and on through the disturbances of "The Hill Wife." The sensuality of "To Earthward" is acted out by its reaching, lingering, abrupt, or stretched sentences as they tease and cavort with rhyme and line ending. The poem is the best lesson I know in what a line of verse is: Read it aloud, letting your voice continue past the line ending, when that is what the syntax wants to do.

--Robert Pinsky

 

Love at the lips was touch
As sweet as I could bear;
And once that seemed too much;
I lived on air

That crossed me from sweet things
The flow of--was it musk
From hidden grapevine springs
Down hill at dusk?

I had the swirl and ache
From sprays of honeysuckle
That when they're gathered shake
Dew on the knuckle.

I craved strong sweets, but those
Seemed strong when I was young;
The petal of the rose
It was that stung.

Now no joy but lacks salt
That is not dashed with pain
And weariness and fault;
I crave the stain

Of tears, the aftermark
Of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough.
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

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