Poem with an explanation: The clock strikes

The clock strikes

the clock strikes:

 eleven twenty eight,

  snowflakes fall,
  robins land,
  fir needles sprout,

 twelve o’ six,

  drifts pile,
  a flock gathers,
  branches fill,

 twelve twenty five,

  a sea of snow,
  the trees are filled,
  branches intertwine,

 twelve thirty one,

  a flurry in the sky,
  robins fly,
  shapes against the stars,

 one o’ one,

  footsteps in the snow,
  robins in a v,
  trees in a line,

 one twelve,

  the snow melts,
  robins fly away,
  needles fall off


This poem is about the progression of time through the holidays.  As the holidays have just ended, this topic seemed appropriate.

The first time is eleven twenty eight.  Here it represents the Friday after Thanksgiving, which this past year occurred on November twenty eighth.  This is the first time when Christmas decorations come out (at least in the poem).  The decorations are represented by the three things that appear in the poem (although these three things will represent other things later in the poem): snowflakes (white), robins (red), and fir needles (green).  The things were chosen to represent colors associated with Christmas.  The colors though, are not specifically mentioned in the poem.  Their appearance symbolizes the appearance of Christmas decorations.  These three things repeat at each of the times in the same order.

Twelve o’ six is the second time.  This time represents December sixth, Saint Nicholas Day.  The three things at this time that arrived at eleven twenty eight are now growing.  This is meant to represent the increase in Christmas decorations that occurs generally in early December, although Saint Nicholas Day was chosen as the specific day for the poem.

The third time is twelve twenty five.  This time represents Christmas Day.  At this time, all the three things in the poem (snow, robins, and fir needles) are in abundance, just like Christmas decorations on this date.

The fourth time is twelve thirty one.  This time represents New Year’s Eve.  At this time, the consistency of snow, robins and fir needles are maintained, but instead of representing Christmas decorations, here they represent fireworks.

One o’ one is the sixth time.  This time represents New Year’s Day.  Here, instead of the snow, robins and trees representing Christmas decorations or fireworks, they represent parades.

The last time is one twelve.  This time represents the date of this post. It is a date after the holidays have ended.  At this time, the three things have gone back to representing Christmas decorations.  What happens at this time symbolizes the decorations being put away.

Poem with an explanation: The gnat

The gnat flies,
and bounces,
and buzzes,
and moves around.
It flies in the face,
and by the eyes,
and in the noise,
and in the mouth.
It stays,
and won’t go,
and keeps moving,
inches from a face

with a swift snatch of the hand,
in front of the face,
the palm moves,
the fingers close,
and the gnat is grabbed,
in a tight grip,

the gnat is taken outside,
and set free.


This poem is in some way about stages that don’t lead as might be expected.

The first stanza describes the persistent, and assumingly annoying, behavior of a gnat to a person.  The repetition of the word “and” is meant to reinforce the idea of the persistent behavior.  It ends with the word “until” which seems to imply an end.  The reader is intended to assume that the death of the gnat will happen soon.

The second stanza describes the capture of the gnat.  It is meant to sound forceful, and reinforces the idea that ended the first stanza.  This stanza also ends with “until” and, as in the first stanza, is meant to lead the reader to believe that the death of the gnat will happen soon.

The third stanza ends the stages, but leads to an unexpected place.  Instead of ending with the death of the gnat, it ends with the gnat being set free.  The stanza is shorter than the first two and has a different sound to imply the different tone.

Poem with an explanation: Summer Winter

as the sunlight stings
and heat engulfs and cooks air
the forest pitch grows

as the gray light floats
and cold surrounds and cools air
the forest sound stills

This poem is comprised of two haiku.  They both describe first moments of walking outside: the first in summer and the second in winter.  Both poems follow the same pattern:

as the AAA light BBB
and CCC DDD and EEE air
the forest FFF GGG

Each of the words (or in one case, partial word) represented by three letters, in some way match: AAA (sun/gray), BBB (stings/floats), CCC (heat/cold), DDD (engulfs/surrounds), EEE (cooks/cools), FFF (pitch/sound), GGG (grows/stills).  In the cases of AAA, BBB, CCC, EEE, and GGG, the words (or in the case of AAA one partial word and one word) contrast, while still having a sense of matching.

The idea behind the poem was to describe two contrasting moments using similar patterns so that the contrast could be highlighted.

A poem with an explanation: a letter

A handwritten letter
with a struggle for expression
and a sense of importance
written with white lead
on white paper.


The first aspect of this poem is the title: “a letter”.  “a” was chosen rather than “the” to have a sense of indefiniteness.  This letter is seemingly one of a group and does not at first stand out.  Both “a” and “letter” were not capitalized to express a sense of subtlety and meekness.  Both of these imply that in some sense, the letter is not meant to stand out

The first line mentions that the letter is handwritten.  This is to evoke an image that has some sense of past: the letter is not typed on a computer.  Second, it is meant to suggest to the reader the image of someone sitting at desk writing in long hand.  Thirdly, even though the image created may be one of someone writing a letter, the line indicates that the letter has already been written.  The letter is already finished.

The second and third lines go together to create a mood.  The letter writer had trouble finding words to get across the importance of what they were writing.  The words “struggle” and “sense” are meant to impart a sense of emotion.  It is as if the letter writer was feeling somewhat overwhelmed as they wrote.  Another point is that knowing the tone of the letter implies that the letter has been read, however, it does not indicate who has read it, a separate reader, or the letter writer.  It is unclear whether the poem is describing the thoughts of the letter writer, or the impression of the letter reader.

The fourth and fifth lines go together and have literal and metaphorical implications.  In a literal sense the letter writer wrote something that a reader would not be able to read: white text on white paper.  Secondly, the letter writer used a pencil to write as indicated by the word “lead”.  This adds to the difficulty that a reader would have in reading the letter because pencil lead would be lighter than ink and would fade.  In a metaphorical sense, a letter written with white lead on white paper is meant to imply that the letter writer was hesitant to communicate: they wanted to express something, but they were afraid of what the receipt of the expression would imply.  Secondly, “lead” is meant to imply heaviness as the word “lead” in “pencil lead” is pronounced the same as the metal “lead”.  This idea relates to the struggle for expression that the writer was having.

The image in this poem is of an emotion where there is difficulty and hesitancy to communicate it.  It meant to illustrate this broader idea.

A poem with an explanation: Crystal mistake

Crystal mistake

The cup of black tea was now bought,
and so the white can it was sought,
some crystals were poured,
the drinker then floored,
because it was salt that she got.


This poem is a limerick and is intended to be humorous.  The humor comes from the mistake of pouring salt instead of sugar into tea and then tasting it.

The first line of the poem introduces the object for the mistake.  A variety of foods and drinks could have been used.  Depending on what was chosen, the mistake could have been pouring sugar instead of salt.  A cup was chosen to imply hot tea instead of cold tea.  This was to help create a visual image in the mind of the reader.

The second line mentions a white can.  The color of the can is meant to hint at the contents of the can, by implying that the color of the contents is associated with the color of the can, without stating what the contents are.  A can was chosen because it is ambiguous in terms of what it contains.  If, for example, a bowl was chosen instead of can, it may have leaned too much toward sugar.

The third line goes with the second line in describing the substance in the can without stating what it is.  Crystals can imply either salt or sugar.  The substance was poured instead of spooned or sprinkled to continue the ambiguity of what it was.

One aspect of this poem to note at this moment is the idea of an intuitive feeling.  The intent of the first three lines is for the reader to intuitively feel that sugar is being poured into tea.  Hopefully this scene will be common to the reader.  If this intuitive feeling does not happen it will decrease the humorous effect of the punchline.  Without the intuitive feeling the reader will have to draw a connection to understand that the first three lines were meant to imply sugar, rather than simply experiencing humor with the punchline.  The idea of an intuitive feeling can be important in many poems.

The fourth line introduces a surprise both to the reader of the poem and to the person in the poem.  The line also introduces a mystery to the reader of why the drinker was floored.

The fifth line is the punchline of the joke and solves the mystery of the fourth line.

Another aspect of the poem is that although it is about sugar and salt, sugar is not actually mentioned in the poem.  Sugar is hinted at by the black tea, the white can and the crystals, but it is never mentioned.