Weighing Clouds
An Anthology of Poems
Edited by Nolan S

I have attended private schools throughout my whole life, and for the most part, I look back on this decision as a good one. I feel that because of this, I have always had excellent opportunities to learn, and great teachers to teach me, but something feels like itís missing in my life. I have never had the chance to experience life in a public school, with large classes, rundown facilities and bullies getting away with stealing my lunch money scot-free. These, of course are all stereotypes; some of them are true, but which ones? I wouldnít know for sure, because I was never given the opportunity to deal with the pleasures and pains of public school.

It was not my choice to attend only private schools; it just happened somehow. My parents both grew up in public schools and automatically assumed that I would appreciate private schools and the learning opportunities that they provide, but how am I supposed to realize how lucky I am to go to such "good" schools if I have nothing to compare them to. Now I am almost halfway through high school and nearing the point where I am going to have to make one of the biggest decisions of my life. Yes, the question of what I am going to be when I "grow up", the question that has haunted me since I was first told that I could be anything that I wanted to be when I was in preschool. Now I feel that I am less sure of what I want to do than when I was a child.

In the midst of my hectic schedule I ponder whether my future is an inevitable fate, good or bad, and whether attending public schools would have taught me more. Would I have earned better grades and therefore have a better chance of making something more of myself in the future? Were there other schools that would have fueled my flame of desire to learn, which from time to time feels as if it is burning out here at Lakeside? Using the words of Robert Frost, I often wonder if

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and Ió
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Unlike some other written works, poetry can be listened to or ignored, depending on the reader. It is not written to teach a lesson, but instead, is it just written to be noticed and read, and after that, the reader can choose whether to attempt to interpret it and find a meaning, or to move on and not give it any more thought. The purpose of poetry is to entertain the audience, yet at the same time it can make them think. Poetry is like a foreign language with many different ways to decode it, allowing various interpretations by different readers. When reading a poem, there is no one way that it must be read. What the author writes can be taken literally, or it can mean whatever the reader wants it to mean, by reading it with a specific interpretation in mind. There is no pressure to think about it in any certain way.

I feel that Robert Frostís metaphor of lifeís decisions being like a fork in the road, in "The Road Not Taken," best shows the thought process that one must go through to make a decision, as well as the curiosity of wanting to know what could have happened if a different choice had been made. Although it may not appear that a decision will have a substantial effect right after it is made, as small choices add up over the years, they can alter the occurrence of events in oneís life completely. For example, not studying for a test can cause a lower grade in a class, that can interfere with being accepted by a certain college, causing a different career to be chosen, and therefore changing the course of the life entirely. The example is improbable but is always a contingency. These choices will later on leave people wondering what would have happened if they had chosen differently. As can been seen when the persona expresses his regret, or possibly curiosity, on other "paths" that he could have taken, when telling the story of his life. This poem fits and defines the theme of my collection, because The Road Not Taken can be interpreted as a poem about choices that must be made in life that canít be taken back.

I have selected a group of poems that were written about choices, some that are life-altering and others that will be forgotten by the next day, and also occasions when there is no choice at all and it is fate that you are fulfilling. "The Life of Riley: A Definitive Biography," shows a life that has been chosen to be lived carefree and without worries, where the protagonist is unable to say that he accomplished anything more than "weighing a cloud" before his death. However, this choice is neither shown as positive or negative in the eyes of the author, as he chooses to maintain a neutral point of view. And after reading this poem, I couldnít decide whether he made a wise choice either, because after all, the protagonist has achieved happiness, which to many is the definition of a successful life. But he hasnít made a name for himself or helped to progress the human civilization in any way either, which I consider to be a wasted and somewhat selfish life.
 
"The Road Not Taken"
Robert Frost
"The Life of Riley: a Definitive Biography"1
Billy Collins
"First Memory"
Louise Gluck
"If"
Rudyard Kipling
"Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams"
Kenneth Koch
"The History Teacher"2
Billy Collins
"Next Day"
Randall Jarrell
"Old Age"
Edmund Waller
"When We Two Parted"
Lord Byron
"The Journey Onwards"
T. Moore
"The Choice"
George Wither
"Devotion"
Anonymous

1The Life of Riley: A Definitive Biography
                       Billy Collins

He was born one sunny Florida morning
and napped through most of his childhood.
He spent his adult life relaxing in beach chairs,
always a tropical drink in his hand.

He never had a job, a family or a sore throat.
He never mowed a lawn.
Passersby would always stop to remind him
whose life it was he was living.
He died in a hammock weighing a cloud.
 

2The History Teacher
        Billy Collins

Trying to protect his studentsí innocence
He told them the Ice Age was really just
The Chilly Age, a period of a million years
When everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel age,
Named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
Than a outbreak of questions such as
"How far is it from here to Madrid?"
"What do you call the matadorís hat?"

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
And the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom
On Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
For the playground to torment the weak
And the smart,
Mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,
While he gathered up his notes and walked home
Past flower beds and white picket fences,
Wondering if they would believe that soldiers
In the Boer War told long, rambling stories
Designed to make the enemy nod off.