Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Green, how I want you green.
- Ah, here's that refrain again. This guy's got a serious one-track mind. Again, though, even though it's the same line, we should re-consider it since it's in a different part of the poem.
- Here, the speaker has just revealed how the green girl is not returning the gazes of everything else in the world. This line seems to intensify the speaker's feelings for something that he just can't have. Ugh, ain't that the worst?
Big hoarfrost stars
come with the fish of shadow
that opens the road of dawn.
- Okay, this is a bit complicated, so let's unpack. First off, "hoarfrost" is just that regular old frost that you get in the morning. You know when you walk outside on a cold morning and everything's covered with a thin layer of white? That's hoarfrost for ya. Pretty, right?
- The stars look frosty to the speaker, and they appear with some "fish of shadow." Huh? Coming next fall: 007 in… Shadowfish.
- Wait, that's not right. But it's important to note that this fish has a job to do here. It's opening the "road of dawn." So, here the speaker is up really early in the morning. It's before the sun has risen, and he's watching these chilly-looking, pre-dawn stars.
- If you've ever watched the sky just before sunrise, it changes colors. It's not just dark, then light. As the sun gets closer to the horizon, the sky lightens and darkens by contrast. See?
- So, it may seem like a great fish is moving through the sky, just under the horizon. Like a fish under water, it's just a tad darker than its surroundings. And what follows it? The sun, of course. This is a complicated image to describe a sunrise, and it's a bit weird, too. It seems to be in keeping, though, with the kind of dream-like wonder that has happened in the poem so far.
The fig tree rubs its wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
- Mmmm, figs. Ever try to see how many Fig Newtons you could cram into your mouth at once? No? Uh…yeah, us either. We never tried that, or nearly choked at summer camp after stuffing in our tenth one. Nope.
- They are delicious, sure, but that's not what the speaker's on about.
- A fig tree actually has really rough-textured leaves (not branches, but hey, who's grading here?), a bit like sandpaper. These leaves are also really big, and really green. It may be as if the green is rubbing off on the wind here, which would be in keeping with the green wind in line 2.
and the forest, cunning cat,
bristles its brittle fibers.
- We admit, we've never thought of a forest as a cat. But, in this metaphor, the limbs of the forest trees seem to be like a cat's hair when it's scared or angry or hunting.
- The fibers (trees and limbs) of the forest, though, are brittle. It seems that this forest is both in danger and vulnerable. We wonder what the threat might be…
- Finally, try reading this line out loud—three times fast, please. You should notice "cunning cat" and "bristles…brittle," and even "forest…fibers." Isn't that just fun to say? More than that, this is alliteration, which is when a poem uses words that start with the same beginning sounds to produce a musical effect.
But who will come? And from where?
She is still on her balcony
- We move from the forest under threat to a pair of questions. Clearly, someone is missing. The speaker wants answers, and so do we.
- Who is missing? It may be the green girl, who is busy chillaxing back on her balcony. Even if that does answer the who and the where questions, though, the speaker's still missing this person. She's just not showing, and he's left alone.
green flesh, her hair green,
dreaming in the bitter sea.
- Once again, the speaker reminds us that this girl is green, from head to toe.
- He also reminds us that she's dreaming up on that balcony. More than that, though, she's also dreaming "in the bitter sea."
- This image is a bit tricky. Is there some kind of new sea-balcony that we're not aware of? They sound cool, but hard to sleep or dream on. Maybe this "sea" is like a sea of emotion, a feeling that overwhelms you with its size and intensity, the way the sea might if you swam in it. In this case, that emotion is bitter, like salt-water. Seriously, that stuff is just… yuck.