Friday, October 16, 2020

Poetry Friday: "I am overtired"

by Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

I know I've been perky and positive in the past about my remote teaching gig, and all of the positives are still there. But I'm here today to tell you the other part of the truth: teaching remotely is hard. So so so very hard. Sit at the kitchen table completely stuck saying over and over again, "I don't know how to do this" hard. Long hours hard. Just longing to hand out a worksheet instead of making everything hard. How can I possibly reach every child hard. Overwhelmingly exhausted hard.

So even though this poem is about apple picking, it is about teaching remotely. How it takes over every waking and sleeping minute. And just at this moment, on a Friday after a late night of conferences on Wednesday and another this morning (and I still have to get ready for math), 

"For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired."

Janice has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Salt City Verse.


  1. "Overwhelming exhausted hard." I hear you. The whole virtual thing seems to take so much more ENERGY... then add the not-knowing how stuff.. tough. Thanks for all you do. xo

  2. So right there with you, my friend!!! And yet you still manage to write poetry! You are amazing!

  3. Mary Lee, You are not alone in this feeling. Your use of Frost's poem to convey the autumn heaviness you feel is clever. Your clever disposition amazes me!

    I wish you rest, rest, rest this weekend. And share this with you, as sometimes a simple visual aid can give me the mental boost I need. Maybe your students could use the visual aid, too?

    Thank you for sharing your gift of honest reflection. It is always appreciated.

  4. Sending big hugs -- I don't know how all you teachers manage to keep going. The having to learn from scratch, adjust, and readjust. The experimenting, the disappointment and discouraging days. Thank you for your candor; we appreciate what you're doing so much. And it was good to read Frost's classic poem once again. Take care and have a restful weekend.

  5. I'm so glad you shared how you feel and what I imagined to be such hard work. I hope parents and communities appreciate how the pandemic has upended so much and why they need to help stop this virus. To me teachers are beyond heroes. My very best to you.

  6. A perfectly-picked poem, Mary Lee ... I am terribly remote-teaching tired at present, too. None of us can "rub the strangeness from our sight" for there's just so much of it. But I found the scent of apples wafting from this post, this poem, refreshing (apologies to the apple-weary Frost). Wishing you real and good rest.

  7. Oh Mary Lee, I know all of us teachers echo your words. I love Frost's description of the way the apples take over his dreams, and teaching is always like that, but even MORE so this year. Thinking of you - I know you are doing a fabulous job.

  8. My youngest granddaughter returned to 'in-person' school yesterday. I imagine the teachers are tired & working so hard to do again a "new" thing, but she loved her day so I thank them for giving it a go after weeks of that "apple-picking". Hugs to you for taking time to show us how it is, Mary Lee, and for all you do for your students. Wishing you some rest on the weekend before you're back on the ladder. Ah, Frost knows a lot!

  9. I heart goes out to all the teachers. Tough doesn't even begin to describe how difficult things are right now. I know that you are doing a wonderful job and your kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher.

  10. I had to come over and read your post from your title:"I am overtired", me too, though try not to talk about it for I am happy to have the classes I have– the administrative and email part is humongous along with the preparation. Thanks for the timely Frost poem–so fitting. Hang in there–remember there's a break in December, thanks Mary Lee.

  11. Mary Lee, even in the midst of exhaustion, you've picked the perfect poem. I'm so thankful to be in person with students every day in a hybrid model, but the level of stress is high and the logistics are daunting. The positives are real, but so are the many, many challenges. Take care of yourself.

  12. Oh, Mary Lee. So many teachers, the best ones in particular, are SO burned out right now. I'm sending you thoughts of peace and energy. Do what you can BUT also take care of yourself. You could expend yourself, blow yourself up like a firecracker to give students your light, and STILL it would not all get done. (Save yourself!) Sending love.

  13. Thank you all for your affirmations and support. I will feel you holding me up and believing in me when I hit those "I'm exhausted/I can't do this/What was I thinking" lows on this rollercoaster ride. Sleep makes a world of difference. Plus we have a long weekend AND a .5 work day on Tuesday. I've got this.

  14. I'm so sorry, Mary Lee. Thank you for sharing Frost's poem. I'm glad you got some rest and I send you all of my positive vibes for renewed energy and maybe a bit of apple cider. You are inspirational even when you are burnt. :)

  15. How did I not know this unusual Frost poem? This IS indeed a poem about the many thousand "fruit to touch and cherish in hand," but we have to let some drop, and count on cider later. I do think part of the learning--and of course you know this--is letting go of how we used to do it and envisioning a whole different path to the destination. Glad you have slept well, and let your weekend be light, friend. It is hard.

  16. Mary Lee, I hear your frustration and understand your exhaustion. "For I have had too much/Of apple-picking: I am overtired." What a great match of a poem for your "I am overtired" thoughts. When I taught my intensive 4-day grad institute this summer, I prepared everyday for one month to learn the new tech platform and be able to move my content to become a worthy flow of learning. I needed two coaches, instructional and technical, in order to be ready. Then, there were 4 long days of teaching followed by grading and endless emails. I am glad for the experience because it proved how difficult it is to teach remotely effectively. Kudos to you for your devotion to teaching and delivering a well-conceived post. Your followed up to Frost's poem is a well-thought out piece. "Essence of winter sleep is on the night."

  17. My heart goes out to you and all those in similar positions. Your poem paints a vivid and poignant picture of this moment in time.

  18. This poem is just pretty much my last week and all the Zoom calls all together PLUS the actual apples that still need to be picked!!! The garage smells like apples because we cleared the smaller tree, but the great big Granny Smith remains. SO much work, and the little bit of this poem which says, "which I desired" makes me both laugh and wince. Which idiot planted to many carrots? Why do I have so much to do now? Because I ...wanted this.


    Courage, my dear. I'm grateful you got your weekend and am sending wings to your brain this week.


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