Confessional / Good Grief / The Arts: Books, Poetry, Photography, and Music

Take Your Gold and Get it the Hell Away From Me

It’s Wednesday which means Poetry Club at good ol’ Jessica Slavin’s blog.  Her poem today is Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I had this poem memorized in high school when I was a fresh, young thing.  I like the first line, Nature’s first green is gold; green is gold.  One color is another color.  I like how it sounds and the way that Leaf subsides to leaf echoes that repetition.

Nature’s first green is spring, so, at first mention gold makes me think of Marigolds and Goldenrods, spring flowers.  But gold is really a fall color in my heart, green leaves turn to gold and red in the fall.  It was my mom’s favorite time of year.  Gold in this poem also makes me think of my mom’s gold wedding ring.  Her ring is iconic to my sisters and me.  It is a plain, heavy golden band, about an inch wide.

When my dad asked us four sisters if there was anything of hers we wanted, we all knew that everyone wanted her ring equally.  We arranged so that every year at Christmas, close to the anniversary of her death, we would exchange the ring.  This way it stays with each of us for just a year at a time.  Nothing gold can stay.

Frost may be trying to say that there’s beauty to be found once the gold fades to green, but sometimes I get stuck on my mom and I don’t even want to see it.  The last line (and title) is perfect.  It reminds me of a tantrum.  I picture Meryl Streep bursting out of a closet, arms full of Gold Lamé clothes and throwing them on the floor, bitterly announcing “Nothing gold can stay!”  It’s not just an observation, but an order!  If I can’t have her, then I want all of your Moms dead!

Deep breaths, Mary!  These feelings are part of a cycle, though (and I’m sorry, I don’t actually wish your mom dead).  A few weeks ago, I felt so sad and desperate to have my mom back.  The feeling came on in a flash.  I couldn’t leave the house because I was in charge of all these kids.  I couldn’t make a scene but I wanted to burst.  I turned the TV on for the kids, retrieved a baseball bat from my bedroom (yes, my bedroom), and quietly snuck out the back door.  I found a spot of grass, got in my baseball stance, hoisted the bat up over my head, winding up, then I grunted and swung the tip of the bat down as hard as I could into the grass.  I hammered at the same spot over and over, tearing the turf away then eventually digging a good little hole.  I did it until I was completely exhausted and could barely walk back inside.

Ah, well, this poem is a good reminder of perspective.  Because today I’m feeling much better than I was a few weeks ago when I assaulted my backyard.  It happens so slowly, but I really am healing.  My mom would be proud of me.  I know there are more hard days ahead, I will need to be strong and try to remember that the pain eventually always subsides.  Sometimes I can’t see it, but today I can see green and gold on the horizon.

5 thoughts on “Take Your Gold and Get it the Hell Away From Me

  1. As usual, painfully hilarious. I have to admit that when I first read the poem, that was the main meaning i took–a bitter, angry acknowledgement that nothing gold can stay. The brighter way to see the message didn’t actually come clear till i was reading those analyses at the U of I website.

    Anyway, thanks, what a terrific post.

    • I think that the interpretation you chose to focus on in your analysis is the one most worthy of attention. On a better day, in like a year hopefully, I will have a real cheery take on this poem : ) I think, especially because of the word choice–Frost using the same word or essentially the same word to describe something good and something bad, opposites–Frost is saying to look further, color is color, leaf is leaf, grief is joy, etcetera

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