A Ghost in the Apple Orchard
For Robert Frost
By Bill Gleed

Honey bees from a wild hive
Have come and gone on their way —
But the White-tailed hornets hide
in the branches
while the rain falls steady,
like the beat of a drum,
then trails off.

Now the sun breaks through
again with all her radiance —
Then the clouds hide her away —
She returns again in a moment.
There, White Tailed Hornets play.
Among the shadows
you can hear them hum
and I think I see him:

The shade of the tired young man —
Up the ladder he seems to climb;
he reaches for russets,
sways in the branches.
He’s there a moment,
and I can grasp him —
but then a shadow falls,
and he fades.
Until even he couldn’t recognize himself.

Writes Bill Gleed: This poem is an elegy for Robert Frost, who I know quite well, not in life, but from my experience as manager of the Robert Frost state historic site in Derry, NH. I was the chief cook and bottle washer on the farm where he wrote or was inspired for most of the poems in his first three books. I wrote poetry there myself for almost eleven years. I co-founded the Hyla Brook Poetry Workshop and Reading series. I know Robert Frost intimately. I’ve discussed him with three of his grandchildren. Robert Frost is not who you think he is. He’s a city kid of white privilege, the son of an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother. He was a trust fund kid and was partially supported by his grandfather, a mill manager in Lawrence, Massachusetts, until he (Frost) was more than 40 years old. In fact, it’s quite probable that he only picked the apples in his orchard (on the Derry farm) for one season, found the work too hard and unprofitable, and sold the orchard wholesale on the tree for others to pick ever after. Poets are liars, and many, upon reaching Frost’s elevated height, invent some of their biography after the fact. This is not a comment on his poetics, or either of the Frost poems alluded to in the piece.

Bill Gleed was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts, and grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, deep in the Merrimack Valley of Robert Frost and Jack Kerouac. He is a 1995 graduate of the master’s creative writing program in poetry at the University of New Hampshire. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Concrete Wolf, Blueline, Kettle of Fish, the Houston Poetry Festival Anthology 2001 and The NH Poets Laureate’s Poets Showcase Anthology of NH Poets. He has taught, English, writing and literature at several colleges and universities including Southern New Hampshire University, Franklin Pierce University, Northern Essex Community College and Middlesex Community College. He is currently a contributing editor and poetry editor at Maelstrom literary journal, and was poetry editor at Moondance.org.