Fred stops. Stares. Turns and leaves the room.
There he goes again. The old man. The spoiled baby.
Are they right? Are they? They are, aren't they?
Doctors: they fill the doorframe, impatience in their faces, their black bags swinging at the ends of their arms with a heavy creak.
They step past you. They pronounce judgment. They wash their hands and leave.
So this is the way the world ends: red evening light (should one say "lurid"? should one say "o'ercast with blood"?), white chickens running free in the yard, and a doctor at the door. Powder House Hill. Is Frost holding the revolver? (Later, he will wonder.)
The doctor steps past. He and Frost mount the stairs (are there chickens underfoot?) to the child's room. Here is Elinor, cadaverous with dread, and the boy, not yet four, lying gray and withered. Four days of diarrhea and vomit. Thirst; cramps. His screams.
Four days! Why did you delay? (The chickens chirr.)
Frost first consulted his mother's doctor.
The man is an idiot.
He prescribed homeopathic pills.
Your mother is a religious maniac with incurable cancer. Her doctor calls on God, not medicine. You knew this.
The doctor straightens. Frost sees it all in that movement. Is he holding the revolver? Might he shoot the man before he opens his mouth? Shoot himself before he hears? "This is cholera infantum. It's too late now for me to do anything. The child will be dead before morning."
Elliott. Their firstborn, their baby.
As there is nothing for the doctor to do, he leaves. Hurries, in fact. Nothing for him here. When is it that nightthree? Four? In the darkthe boy, the baby, held by Elinor, Frost held off by her. Elinor not saying a word, nor the silent boy: gray and shrunken, a changeling. Where is their baby? They are not sure. Then they are.
Elinor will never say his name again.
"He is gone home," says Belle, Frost's mother, with obscene serenity.
Your doctor's fault! Frost could wring her neck.
They have no photograph of him. (They have no camera.)
In Frost's mind, an image: Elliott is in the backyard with his father, feeding the chickens. Some are inside the run, others outthere is a break in the wire Frost hasn't fixed. Elliott throws corn kernels, tucks his feet away from drilling beaks, tucks up his curled hands, laughs in fear. He looks back to his father for protection. Behind him, beating upward with a stormwind noise: white wings.
North Station, Boston, Massachusetts
Out of the clamor of the crowd, the shouts of porters, a Younger Poet boards the Berkshire Limited, bound for Albany. He's just found a seat when down the aisle comes Robert Frost. The Younger Poet prays, and the two seats across from him stay open. Frost sits down, a woman with him.
The Younger Poet imposes on himself the discipline he reserves for his Frost encounters. He divests his mind of triviathe train, the passengers, their conversationsand opens it to take on the load of Frost. All that exists are the two poets, and the woman beyond, who, as a Frost familiar, must also matter. Is that his secretary, Mrs. Kathleen Morrison? The Younger Poet had heard much. (He refuses to believe the cheap gossip.) He drinks her in. A slight, pretty woman dressed all in gray, with a pleasing voice. How fine it would be to know her!
The Younger Poet waits and watches, taking mental notes. There is a wart on Frost's left eyelid. The backs of his hands are hairy. He seems changed from when the Younger Poet last saw him, seven months ago. His eyes are dark-shadowed and strained; he slumps wearily in his seat.
From Fall of Frost, copyright Brian Hall 2008. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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