The Bend in the Road is a poem about memory and nostalgia for the past. It recounts a tale of a child getting sick on a journey with the whole family and how the location, that ‘bend in the road’, becomes synonymous with that event. The poet realizes that our surroundings are filled with the memories of our loved ones even if they have passed away.
A child feels sick on a trip to the lake and the family pull the car over to the side of the road, with the windows rolled down, to let the child recover. The poet remembers a ‘tree like a cat’s tail’ and ‘the shadow of a house’.
Every time the family passed the location since they have remembered how the child got ‘sick one day on the way to the lake’. The child has grown up and is now taller than the poet and her husband and the surroundings at the bend in the road have also changed. The tree has grown and the house has become ‘quite covered’ with ‘green creeper’.
The poet reflects on all that has happened in the past 12 years and on the people they have lost: ‘the faces never long absent from thought’. These people were taken away by disease: ‘we saw them wrapped and sealed by sickness’. They were so weak that even sleep seemed a burden to them: ‘the piled weight of sleep / We knew they could not carry too long’.
To the poet this bend in the road is a place of memory for all these people and all her memories, not just the one in which her child got sick: ‘This is the place of their presence: in the tree, in the air.’
Figurative language: The poet uses similes in many of her images. She describes the tree as ‘like a cat’s tail’ and the spirits of the dead being ‘like one cumulus cloud/ In a perfect sky.’
Atmosphere: There is a serene and peaceful atmosphere in this poem. This ‘bend in the road’ is described as ‘silent’ and seems a place where little happens.
Alliteration: ‘A tall tree, like a cat’s tail’. And ‘sealed by sickness’.
Assonance: ‘Piled high, wrapped lightly, like…’