When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn’t understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry!

4 Comments

  1. Naomi Fields says:

    Heeeeeeeyyyyyy I found this while taking the SAT Subject Tests as well . . . & after time was called scrawled down a line of the poem on my Admission Ticket so that I could Google it once I got home! I am amazed to see that I am not the only one whom the poem touched.

  2. Gina says:

    haha I found this during the SAT II also!

  3. Becca says:

    Haha I also saw this poem while taking the SAT and I immediately had to write down the title so I could go home and look it up online. Something about how Pastan flawlessly connects all her ideas struck me, and this has definitely become one of my favorite poems!

  4. Melissa Goodman says:

    I came across this poem, curiously enough, while taking a standardized test. I had a limited amount of time to answer 60 questions on numerous literary passages. And while I of course very much enjoy literature and analyzing it as well, I was frustrated that I had to merely glance over the passages or skim them at the most in order to have time to answer all the questions sufficiently. But when I came to Pastan’s Prosody 101, I was compelled to slow my urgent pace of test-taking because her words demanded more than a quick overview to get the just the main points. Pastan is quite right in recognizing that poetry is life and life is poetry. We write poetry because of our need to understand and explore our experiences. We read poetry for the need to reflect and place in perspective life. Poetry is then, with words, an incarnation of everything it means to be human.

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