I wish I could post this Randall Jarrell poem in its entirety, but it is of course under copyright, and I can’t find it anywhere online. If you want to see the rest, you’ll have to look it up at the library, I guess. It would be well worth your time. I’ve never read anything that more poignantly captures the emotional wrench of moving. In this case, we’re experiencing the move through the eyes of a very young girl who knows that nothing will ever be the same again.
by Randall Jarrell
Some of the sky is grey and some of it is white.
The leaves have lost their heads
And are dancing round the tree in circles, dead;
The cat is in it.
A smeared, banged, tow-headed
Girl in a flowered, flour-sack print
Sniffles and holds up her last bite
Of bread and butter and brown sugar to the wind.
Butter the cat’s paws
And bread the wind. We are moving.
I shall never again sing
Good morning, Dear Teacher, to my own dear teacher.
Will Augusta be the capital of Maine.
The dew has rusted the catch of the strap of my satchel
And the sun has fallen from the place where it was chained
With a blue construction-paper chain…
There is so much more. When the girl thinks about how someone else must draw the Thanksgiving decorations for her classroom, your heart might break.
Even more moving are the lines:
Never again will Orion
Fall on my speller through the star
Taped on the broken window by my cot.
This is what makes Jarrell a master, this ability to capture with perfect clarity the point of view of his speaker. The little girl obviously lives in poverty, and for all we know she is going to a better house, a better life. The poem doesn’t tell us whether this is an upward move or a downward one.
What the girl knows is that everything she knows is changing. A child, like a poet, clings to small pieces of beauty wherever she finds them, and this child has found a piece in the cracked glass of a window. The tape covering the glass makes a star, and stars shine through it.
She studies her speller by starlight, and her strongest attachments are to her school and her teacher. Wherever she is going, for better or worse, she is leaving those things behind, and we can only hope that the stars will continue to shine on her efforts.
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Tonight I think no poetry will serve
A Rare Cross-Post