Before the Frost

When you read the words of Frost's poem, you think at first that he's taking a bit more poetic license than he really is. Some woods really do turn yellow during some weeks of some years. By calling the woods yellow, he's calling us to a more specific place and a more specific time than you might think at first.

There was a moment in which the roads diverged, and Frost, pulling a Frost, grabs it with "yellow." I might have written a whole paragraph about the way your feet disturb leaves and the prickly dusty smell of it in that particular part of fall when it's mild and dry. Frost just says "a yellow wood" and makes you imagine it yourself again each year.

But the wood's only yellow here and there where the soil's right and the trees are young. Some places it's evergreen with white pine, and the needles cover the forest floor. And other places there are meadows turning sere with brightly colored reds and oranges at their borders.

What Frost doesn't say is that the roads diverge again and again, some in the yellow woods, some where the milkweed has burst and thrown its seeds in the wind, and some where the dogs kick up the decaying leaves and pick the muddier path for you.

Sign up with your email address to receive an e-mail notification when there is a new entry in the Journal.

* indicates required
Advertisement: