Today, I am sharing a poem written by James E. Dykes, one of my undergraduate English professors. He taught research so well that I knew the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress systems by heart. He retired shortly after I took my first-year composition course under his instruction and passed away, unfortunately, weeks after I graduated from college.
To my knowledge he wrote two collections of verse–Cosmos Electric and Variant Verse and Graffiti and Grace. I have not been able to find Graffiti and Grace, but [many, many moons ago] I found Cosmos Electric on clearance at a bookstore and bought every copy available.
The poem below is one of my favorites from the collection. I often use it as an example in my introductory literature courses of how to respond creatively to a poem and to show students that it is okay to critique and question what some consider great literature.
I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I do.
Response to Robert Frost’s “Road Not Taken”
James E. Dykes
“Any road will do, if one knows not where he is going.” —The Talmud
In that famed yellow wood, where parting ways
diverge, I, too, have stood with eyebrows raised;
weighing the iffiness of this or that–
transfixed as the Stylite who sat and sat.
But one must move, or else be swept along.
Not choosing is to choose the right or wrong;
or share the irksome fate of those who learn–
too late–that they mistook or missed their turn.
By signs, by compass pints; by sun or star,
a pilgrim journeys homeward from afar.
Some seamen reach the East by sailing West.
All circuits parallel lead to one’s quest.
Though course correction or reversal might
improve or solve a wanderer’s plight,
if one should take a road that leads to nowhere,
what difference can it make in getting there?