The Fearful Child

By Carol Frost b. 1948 Carol Frost
As a child I parleyed with animals, stuffed and real.
Making my kitten pilot of a boot, I guided
from one end of a string the dizzy flight and collapse.
I was fearful of people as well as things,
and my faithful toy shepherd with his painted face
sat by me on the bed in the gloom.
I was disdainful of dolls as weak people.

In the favorite story I told myself my parents
were made over into fair-limbed, brave angels
who smiled into their god’s eyes when summoned.
I was benevolent, afraid to let go of this image
at night because I couldn’t hide deep enough
under the covers to be overlooked by death,
the angel bending over me who had been wronged.

I read histories of queens, regal and barbarian,
whose leopard’s eyes restrained man or wild beast.
I rambled along tidal rivers and in the marshes
where the green-golden grasses dazzled the sun,
and felt the ache of sea-air in my lungs.
I saw water spume near Atlantic cliffs.
I examined lichen. I saw great light drown darkness.

Then at thirteen I lay in the bleak bed before sleep
and heard the pleadings and the murderous kisses;
and burned, like a bear his fat, my soul.
I quaked at the sound of my voice whispering, No,
or turned my face to the wall
and wept salt onto my knuckles.

In the serene light of sun-up, before sparrows
tumbled up from the earth, whispering and singing,
and the exquisite sea and sky mobilized
their heavy, blue currents, I was consoled.
I walked through beauty without knowing why
and told no one, wanting nothing else to touch me
and never to move anyone in any way.

I hid away from the house and learned the dark
was not a dream but could show the pale gravel
of a real driveway. I saw for the first time
later the new moon and the full moon
in one piece. I no longer feared the night,
night like a bear at ease in his wide habitat.
In the greatness of such space I said, This is me.

“The Fearful Child” by Carol Frost from Love and Scorn: New and Collected Poems. © 2000 by Carol Frost. Published by TriQuarterly/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

Source: love and scorn: New and Selected Poems (TriQuarterly Books, 2000)

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Poet Carol Frost b. 1948

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Coming of Age, Youth

 Carol  Frost


Carol Frost was born in 1948 in Lowell, Massachusetts. She studied at the Sorbonne and earned degrees from the State University of Oneonta and Syracuse University. The author of numerous collections of poetry, including Entwined: Three Lyric Sequences (2014), Honeycomb: Poems (2010), The Queen’s Desertion (2006), I Will Say Beauty (2003), Love and Scorn: New and Selected Poems (2000), and the chapbook The Salt Lesson (1976), she . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Coming of Age, Youth

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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