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Poem: "The Road More Traveled" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Road More Traveled"

This poem came out of the November 2, 2010 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by aldersprig.  It was sponsored by xjenavivex as part of the 2010 Holiday Poetry Sale.  Thank you, and happy holidays!


The Road More Traveled


The road stretches endlessly toward the horizon,
worn by generations of feet and hooves and wheels.
The dust of the road and the stones of the road
are older than dirt.

The sides of the road are littered with objects
lost along the way or deliberately discarded.
Horseshoe nails and horseshoes,
buckles and bits and coins, loose screws,
food tins, wedding rings, pocket knives,
dog collars and doll clothes --
the detritus of thousands of lives
lies here beside the road more traveled.

Here too lie the memories and the memes,
beliefs abandoned for better ideas,
things that deserve to be forgotten,
old arguments buried like hatchets,
dragon's teeth scattered on stones never to spawn,
thoughtshards of interest only to archaeologists and philosophers.

Mixed among the old are figments of the new:
flower spikes spearing upward through the dust
to open their delicate purple bells above the stones,
baby rabbits nestled in softly rotted cotton,
bright-eyed sparrows fledging from broken wagons,
epiphanies as splendid as sunrises.

The historian walks this road to learn where it has led.
The futurist walks this road to imagine where else we could go.
The poet walks this road to distill inspiration from memory.

They walk hand in hand, humming,
and the road more traveled reveals itself
not through the destination but through the journey.

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Current Mood: happy happy

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Comments
jenny_evergreen From: jenny_evergreen Date: December 18th, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think this is the perfect bookend to The Road Less Traveled! :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 18th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I would be pleased to be in such august company. That poem has long been a favorite of mine, and this is not the first poem I've written that riffs off of it in some way.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 18th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, yes. I like that! It reminds me of roads I have dug up...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 18th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Woohoo, plausibility WIN! I really appreciate this kind of feedback. When I wrote this, I was thinking about some historic roads that I have heard about -- the American wagon trails, certain stretches of Roman roads, parts of the "silk road" -- that were known for having large amounts of historic rubbish.

What are some roads that you have dug up? That sounds like a fun dig.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 18th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

Oh, this is going to sound so boring...

I've found a couple of buried 19th century ones, where I often found precisely the kind of things you mention - old nails, coins, etc.

On one site, there was a medieval trackway. We found loads of pottery and a couple of whetstones. It was a really ramshackle structure, which caused a lot of debate over whether it was really a road at all. It may just have been where the stones wound up getting chucked out of the fields on the edge of the slope - but the director, who's well-respected and a damn fine archaeologist, was convinced it was a road, so I'll stick with his interpretation!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 18th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> Oh, this is going to sound so boring...<<

Not to me. In the spring I walk around the edges of my yard, looking for crockery shards in the fields.

>>I've found a couple of buried 19th century ones, where I often found precisely the kind of things you mention - old nails, coins, etc.<<

That's cool. Coin caches are also nifty. I had one history teacher who collected ancient coins and would bring in pieces to show us.

>>On one site, there was a medieval trackway. We found loads of pottery and a couple of whetstones. It was a really ramshackle structure, which caused a lot of debate over whether it was really a road at all. It may just have been where the stones wound up getting chucked out of the fields on the edge of the slope - but the director, who's well-respected and a damn fine archaeologist, was convinced it was a road, so I'll stick with his interpretation!<<

Fascinating. *ponder* It's harder to tell where things were, back before people really got into the habit of trying to make everything as permanent as possible. Many roads were just tracks. But if you've got the edge of a field, and a jumbled line of stones there ... then people will walk it. It seems to be a human trait to walk along lines or the edges of things. If a particular one becomes popular, then it's a track, and sooner or later someone will start pushing or driving wheeled things along it.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 18th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

The 'track' in question seems to have run between various land divisions. The ones down towards the river appeared to have been abandoned at some time in the medieval period when the climate worsened and the water table rose, flooding the properties in question...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 19th, 2010 12:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

To a student of history, climate changes are very real. After one has studied the effects of desertification, epic droughts and freezes, salt-poisoning, floods and water-table drops, continents lighting on fire, etc. then one understands how much of human civilization has been affected by such things. Sometimes it's because of something we've done (irrigation tends to salt up fields, eventually) and other times we're just innocently caught in the cross-hairs (the Year Without A Summer). But it sure does sensitize one to contemporary reports of population movement in response to environmental shifts...

I've been watching various examples such as the Louisiana coastline washing away, and villages in China being abandoned because the water has receded so far, and it makes me wonder what future historians will find in those areas. *ponder* I've written about alien archaeologists exploring our ruins, but I don't think I've done much with human ones. Might need to try that some time.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 19th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

All around the British Isles, archaeological sites are getting decimated on the coastline as a result of changing coastlines.

And then, as they pointed out on a BBC documentary last night, in 50,000 years or thereabouts, the ice-sheets will advance again and all these sites we're struggled so hard to protect for generations will get wiped clean by the advancing glaciers anyway!!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 19th, 2010 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

>>All around the British Isles, archaeological sites are getting decimated on the coastline as a result of changing coastlines.<<

Alas! I had not heard about that. Do you have an article to recommend for an overview or examples?

>>And then, as they pointed out on a BBC documentary last night, in 50,000 years or thereabouts, the ice-sheets will advance again and all these sites we're struggled so hard to protect for generations will get wiped clean by the advancing glaciers anyway!!<<

Not necessarily. Many sites are partially or wholly underground, and most probably will be by the time glaciers arrive. In some areas, glaciers will carve out deep valleys (goodbye to anything underneath) but in others they will sort of "float" over the surface (probably leaving at least some artifacts intact below). In mountainous areas they seem more inclined to carve, while on level ground they often float.

I wonder if we have past examples? It wouldn't surprise me. We know that glaciers advance and retreat cyclically during an ice age. Sometimes people would hunt along the edges. So we might find, say, the remnants of a campsite, if it was in a low spot or had been there long enough to be covered by a layer of earth before the glacier rolled back over it. Hmm ... something to keep an eye out for.
endlessrarities From: endlessrarities Date: December 19th, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Try this website for starters:-

http://www.scapetrust.org/

This'll give you an idea of what's going on in Scotland.

In this part of the world, the vast majority of our prized sites are above ground - we lost most of our Palaeolithic evidence in the Loch Lomond Re-advancement, which was a last gasp from the glaciers just before the Mesolithic kicked in and the Great Thaw started in earnest. A lot of our Palaeolithic evidence is now underwater in 'Doggerland' - the shallow Dogger Bank area of the North Sea.
eseme From: eseme Date: December 20th, 2010 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I like this.

So, would the "Adopt a Highway" programs be removing historical evidence?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: December 20th, 2010 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Hmm...

>>I like this. <<

Thank you!

>>So, would the "Adopt a Highway" programs be removing historical evidence?<<

I don't know. I don't think so. There would still be some stuff left, and what gets picked up is mostly just ephemeral litter. Rubbish is really useful information, but some kinds tell more than others.

But I'd like to know what the historians and archaeologists on the list have to say!
eseme From: eseme Date: December 20th, 2010 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Hmm...

I'm also curious. There is the whole "one man's junk" argument.
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