Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, RUNAWAY, by MALCOLM COWLEY

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

RUNAWAY, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: Now after bob had fed the cattle
Last Line: Westward again, and was gone forever.
Subject(s): Farm Life; Travel; Agriculture; Farmers; Journeys; Trips


NOW after Bob had fed the cattle
— it was a morning late in fall —
and after he had watched his father
drive to the fields with Prince and Doll
he stole to the doorway and in silence
climbed the steps and crossed the hall.

Safe in his room above the kitchen
he tossed his clothes about and jerked
into the suit he wore on Sundays
and brushed his Sunday shoes. Below
Mother was singing as she worked;
he wished that he had let her know.

Struggling with his worn valise
he tiptoed down the empty hall.
The door held tight. He strained in wrath.
It yielded and crashed against the wall.
Nobody came. He strode in peace
along the flagstones of the path.


Coley, his black hound, followed
and barked and ruffled his curly
black hair and seemed to ask him
— Why go to town so early?

Coley, his black hound, followed
running as if insane
in circles and ellipses
and bayed and whooped and holloed
like twenty thousand gypsies
along the narrow lane.

But Bob turned squarely in his track
and cursed his dog and stoned him back.


He trampled ice that edged the puddles
— there was a frost the night before —
and went a-stumbling into ditches
where asters lingered, stiff and hoar.

He watched the leaves of sugar maples
twist in eddies of purple and red
and leaves of the yellow birch that fluttered
like yellow butterflies overhead.

and pine trees which were bending gravely
in rank as if at exercise
and hemlocks silver in the wind
and watched it all through misty eyes.


Of course he would come back. Of course
he would come home as rich as any
he knew the stories of the many
boys who walked to town and then
in limousines rode back again
and bought farms for their folks—
Why, say,
his father would be glad enough
some time, that he had gone away.

But mebbe Mother would be dead
when he came back—he couldn't tell
and mebbe Dad would have to sell
the farm ... and questions filled his head
and if he stopped then, or sat down
(half in fear he quickened his pace)
he never would have come to town.


At last when he had climbed the hill
he turned to see what he was leaving
and said again—I will come back,
but he was only half believing.
The brown squares that the plow had scored
lay under him, a checkerboard
and mist rose from the marsh. He never
had seen the land look half so fair
as now it seemed when woodlots burned
as if they had been seared by the air.
But taking a quick hard breath he turned
westward again, and was gone forever.

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