Thursday, October 13, 2016

POETRY FRIDAY: "Strange Pavement"



I love Robert Francis’s poems, and his gorgeous “The Sound I Listened For” (click the link to read it) is an unrhymed hexameter sonnet with six-beat lines, a very challenging measure to have sound natural when pentameter (lines with five strong stresses) is so ubiquitous in English. Here’s my attempt at the form, a memory from the years I commuted to Boston:


Strange Pavement


Young girls or geometric punks drew hopscotch squares
Across this stretch of pavement where I walk to work
Most mornings from the train. It must have been at dawn,
Or maybe overnight, before the early joggers
Scattered the chalk and scuffed away the double cross.
They left no names, forgot to scribble numbers in
Each block, so something might have interrupted them.
I keep on using plurals, but the they could be
A she, a he, a street artiste outside alone
Kneeling and making perfect squares in purple chalk
By flashlight as a code, or as a dare to us:
A bottle cap, a rock, is all you need to play.
I toss a dime and jump five spaces to retrieve it,
Then leave it there so someone else can take a turn.



© 2016 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

P.S. Here's a link to a radio recording of the late Robert Francis, America's "best neglected poet," as Robert Frost had it, reading poems. I admire poet Henry Lyman for producing these broadcasts for more than two decades in Amherst, Massachusetts.

11 comments:

Carol Varsalona said...

Steven, what a wonderful poem with a great remembrance of childhood. Thank you for the link also. I am ready to design a fall gallery, Autumnventure, and hope that you will contribute. The invitation is at my PF post.

Sally Murphy said...

I agree it's a difficult form, but you've carried off with aplomb. Thanks for taking me back to childhood hopscotch games.

Linda B said...

Lovely to see the form in both poems, Stephen, and the "invitation" to observe from Francis' poem, and from yours, an invitation to take part in what you observe. Thanks!

JoAnn Early Macken said...

What fun! I'm enjoying imagining the next person coming along continuing the game. I would!

Jane @ raincitylibrarian.wordpress.com said...

How wonderful - I love the idea of cheeky street artists secretly spreading joy through their mysterious chalk art. :)

Irene Latham said...

I love how this imagines the art behind the art, how it came to be... and that lovely ending that invites the reader to play along. Thank you!

Kimberley Moran said...

I've been there. I've seen this. We might have been together.

Brenda Harsham said...

That is a perfect symbol of childhood. Oddly, a hopscotch grid is not nearly as sad when empty like a swing, hanging still. Love the poem. Impressive that it wasn't sing-songy or extra-wordy.

Diane Mayr said...

I didn't play hopscotch (I remember it being called potsy where I grew up), but I did admire the chalk work that went into setting up the game. I like how you brought that part of it into your poem.

Good for you for analyzing the Francis poem and trying your hand at his form.

Steven Withrow said...

Thank you, all. Much appreciated.

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