Spring on the Ripley Road

Apr 26, 2019

Today’s poem is “Spring on Ripley Road” by Dawn Potter. Dawn directs the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching, held each summer at Robert Frost's home in Franconia, New Hampshire. She is the author or editor of eight books of prose and poetry. Her most recent book is a poetry collection, Chestnut Ridge.

She writes, “I wrote the piece about 15 years ago, when my sons were young and I was, like many parents of young children, trying to figure out how to maintain some sense of my own identity, my own private life, at a moment when my children seemed to be in constant uproar: chattering, arguing, kicking each other in the backseat, inventing loud games. The poem is set on a Central Maine road I drove on almost every day: narrow, frost-heaved, not obviously beautiful, and yet a place of specificity, a place that I could examine and absorb into myself. So the poem attempts to put together those two worlds: the life of the lonely observer, the life of the chaotic family.”

Spring on the Ripley Road 
by Dawn Potter

Knick knack, paddywhack,
Ordering the sun, 
Learning planets sure is fun.
–Paul’s back-seat song 

Five o’clock, first week of daylight savings.
Sunshine doggedly pursues night.
Pencil-thin, the naked maples cling blankly to winter.

     James complains,
     “It’s orbiting, not ordering.”

Everything is an argument.
The salt-scarred car rockets through potholes,
hurtles over frostbitten swells of asphalt.

     James explains, “The planets orbit the sun.
     Everything lives in the universe.”

Sky blunders into trees. 
A fox, back-lit, slips across the road
and vanishes into an ice-clogged culvert.

     Paul shouts, “Even Jupiter? Even foxes?”
     Even grass? Even underwear?”

Trailers squat by rusted plow trucks;
horses bow their searching, heavy heads.
The car dips and spins over the angry tar.

     James complains, “I’m giving you facts.
     Why are you so annoying?”

The town rises from its petty valley.
Crows, jeering, sail into the turgid pines.
The river tears at the dam.

     Paul shouts, “Dirt lives in the universe!”
     I want to be annoying!”

Everywhere, mud.
Last autumn’s Marlboro packs,
faded and derelict, shimmer in the ditch.

Poem copyright © 2011 Dawn Potter. Reprinted from Solstice Magazine, 2011, by permission of Dawn Potter.