The Best Way Out is Always Through

I have been thinking to myself a lot “the way out is through,” and I got to wondering who said it originally. And there, in a pile of inspirational quotes, was “The best way out is always through” attributed to motherfucking Robert Frost.

If you know Robert Frost, you know why I say “motherfucking Robert Frost.”

Robert Frost is like king of the pithy quotes that, when taken out of context, seem, yes, inspirational and wise. You know Robert Frost only two lines at a time, you think Robert Frost is some sweet old New England farmer handing out gentle wisdom while leaning on his hoe, overlooking his lovingly tended garden.

“Oh, Mr. Frost, I seem to be tangled up in your blackberries, which also may be a metaphor for my life!”

“I see that, girl. But just keep coming toward the sound of my voice. ‘The best way out is always through.'”

“I’m free! Oh, thank you, thank you, Mr. Frost.”

“I don’t have time for gratitude. I have to help this person trying to make a big life decision decide which path in a metaphorical woods he should take.”

That’s never how a Robert Frost poem goes in real life, though. They’re always sad, someone is always missing a connection with another person or about to.

And thus it is with “A Servant to Servants.”

I’m still going to think of that phrase, but it feels maybe a lot more honest and a little less inspirational to know that the speaker of the poem feels rather ambiguous about it. As you do, when you’re thinking about your crazy uncle locked in a cage in the barn.

2 thoughts on “The Best Way Out is Always Through

  1. That poem! Oh holy hell, how, uh, maddening. It’s an excellent portrait of…I don’t know–repressed depression, female martyrdom, New England super-dark Gothic? Now that I’ve read it I can’t decide whether I want to take her away, medicate her, smack her for not saving herself, or just go off and drown myself in Lake Willoughby. How much fern biology do you think got done that afternoon? I bet the hapless researcher couldn’t sleep in his tent for weeks and dreamed about naked crazy uncles for years.

  2. Right?! There’s a really delicious, thin layer of menace. And I love that, by the time you get to the end, when she says

    I’ve lain awake thinking of you, I’ll warrant,
    More than you have yourself, some of these nights.
    The wonder was the tents weren’t snatched away
    From over you as you lay in your beds.
    I haven’t courage for a risk like that.

    you can’t, or at least, I can’t really tell if she’s wondering about why someone else didn’t snatch their tents, with all the itinerant, somewhat dangerous help about, and thus the risk is the one they might be facing from the tent-stealers, or if she’s in a state of wonder that she didn’t go steal the tents herself, because she feels such a crazy impulse to, but then decides she’s not courageous enough to let that kind of crazy out into the world again.

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