Last night’s bedtime reading selection for Cyrus:
Turns out that Cy’s favorite bedtime story about anthropomorphized alphabet letters climbing a coconut tree is in direct conversation with Robert Frost’s poem about youth, Truth, and fanciful New Hampshire forest sprites who climb ice-loaded birch trees in the middle of winter for sport.
When I see coconut trees bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As A, B, C, and skinned-knee D do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with dew on a sunny summer morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the sun rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir dries and stretches their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed stubbed-toe E, F, and G
Skitting and scatting and scoodle-dooting on the sand-crust—
Such heaps of broken serifs to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the copra farms by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching at the beach
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all their matter-of-fact about the rain-storm
I should prefer to be there with some X, Y, or Z bend them
As they went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some J or tag-along K
too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one L, not yet a knot, M, stooped lowercase N,
Alley-oop O, and black-eyed P subdued their father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until Q took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For R and S to conquer.
Loose-tooth T learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. U always kept his poise
To the top branches, wiggling and jiggling carefully
With the same pains V uses to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then V flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of coconut trees.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to get caught, like that foolish A always would.
Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a coconut tree,
And climb black branches up to a snow-white full moon
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set us down again with a Chicka Chicka,
and a Boom Boom.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than dare, double-dare be a swinger of coconut trees.