A Poem Seen Through A Filter

This provocative post came from perennial sophomore Bubby Spamden of Wendell Willke High School.

Hey Mr. C.,

We’re just about to get out of school for another year and I can’t wait. Whenever May comes around I start to think about much fun summer is going to be and I kind of lose track of things, which is too bad because that’s exactly when we’re taking all those tests.

This year I was really sweating it in English class because Ms. Filbert-Nutt got this idea that we should all memorize the same poem – this thing by Robert Frost about a yellow brick road somewhere in the forest or something. I’m not too good at remembering things, probably because I’m kind of old, for a sophomore.

Anyway, she told us in September we’d have to learn it, and as soon as you felt ready to recite it you just had to tell her and she’d give you two minutes to do it in class. Alicia Bombardo did it the very next day, of course! I kept putting it off, and by the time March came around she started calling on people who hadn’t done it yet. I had to use my fake sore throat voice a couple of times just to get a pass.

So I thought I’d managed to dodge it completely, but then last week when we were doing the essay part of our year-end exam, it turned out she wanted us to write it on the test paper! Longhand!

And it was just my luck I was sitting a little behind and just off to the side of Stephen Craft. He’s kind of smart but he’s also wiggly and he’s got these really thick arms and he kind of hunches over his papers when he writes. So I was only able to get a glimpse of word groups here and there while he was writing it out.

It’s not easy to copy from someone’s paper when they’re all fidgety like that. Especially if the teacher is as fussy about cheating, which Ms. Filbert-Nutt is.

Anyway, I did my best. But when she gave me the paper back I had a “D”, with a whole bunch of question marks scribbled around my answer to that poem question, along with this note: “What happened here? Talk to me!”.

Here’s what my paper said:

Two woods diverged in a yellow road,
And travel I could not sorry both
And long be one, traveler I stood
And as far down one looked as I could
Bent to where it in the undergrowth;

Then just the other, as took as fair
And better having the perhaps claim
Grassy it wanted, and because was wear,
Passing the that as though for there
Worn about them really had the same,

Both equally and morning that lay
Step in no leaves had trodden black
Another first marked I for Oh the day!
Way how on knowing leads yet to way
Ever should I come if I doubted back.

With this telling shall I be a sigh
Ages somewhere and ages hence:
Roads a wood diverged in two and I,
Traveled the one I took less by,
Made the all and has that difference.

So now I have to have this meeting with Ms. F-N and I think my whole grade kind of rests on it. Mr. C., I’m wondering if you could help me think of something good to say that isn’t too false, but isn’t totally honest either. Something with just enough spin that it could keep me from flunking my sophomore year. Again!

Your pal,

I told Bubby that I try often enough but I’m not a very good liar – whenever I tell a whopper people see through me right away. All my excuses tend to fall flat so I didn’t think I could help him. He wrote back and accused me of making that answer up, which, of course, was true.


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