Road Ending

At the end of the road a hunter’s hut
boarded all summer, the fraying bush
backing against it, a ragged fringe
of beggars’ ticks, rust tassels, thorns,
and boulders pushed to the water’s edge
where the graders turned.
There was no one home.

And no one in the water. Overhead
the white thread spidered from a jet
drifted across where the evening star
was not yet shining.

What were the words I could not use,
the thoughts I could not think to say?
The white lake shook in the early dusk.

Something was lost we were waiting for,
summer, perhaps, or snow.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Road Ending”?

“Road Ending” is a mood poem, presenting a moment when autumn, dusk, and a sense of “endings,” “emptiness” and “loss” promotes in many of us a gentle melancholy. The poem is not quite a sonnet, because it is neither written in pentameter (five stress lines) nor is it fourteen-lined, but it is structured as a sonnet in that it is basically a paragraph: the opening verses present the situation, and the closing verses make a conclusion about the situation. (Rhyme is not necessary to a sonnet; in general rhyme tends to produce a sense of echo and of closure that is not appropriate for this poem, which wants to leave matters a little more questionable and open.)

What poetic techniques did you use in “Road Ending”?

“Road Ending” is written in tetrameter (four stresses per line). The few three stress lines seem more stronger because they are briefer and set off in the rhythmic context. I always avoid writing strict countable syllabic meter, which I find unsuited to the music of the English language. (Nor do I insist upon the iambic.) Instead I allow the cadence of meaning, the melody, if you like, to vary and subdue the stress. But, even allowing for pauses and for syncopation, there is a regularity of stress in this poem which helps to establish the lyrical mood, as unrhythmical prose could not do.

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