Study Guide

Where the Sidewalk Ends Nature

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This poem uses nature to show the stretches of the imagination. But this isn't nature as we know it: it's kind of a dream world. It's a place where nature takes forms that would only be possible in the imagination.

  • Title and Line 1: When we think about the sidewalk ending, we immediately think about nature. Sidewalks are a thing of the city and the suburbs, but they stop when the houses get far away from each other and slowly turn into farms. Yet, as we read the poem, we find that the place where the sidewalk ends is also a metaphor, representing the power of human creativity and imagination to help us escape from the troubles of the everyday world.
  • Line 2: This line reinforces the idea that the place where the sidewalk ends is out in nature, far away even from streets. The choice of the word "street" is significant, because we associate "road" with country roads, and "street" with city streets. So while there may still be roads where the sidewalk ends, there certainly aren't any streets.
  • Line 3: Now we find out what's not quite real about the world where the sidewalk ends. Instead of being green and kind of scratchy, the grass in this world is soft and white. This builds an image for us readers as well as clueing us in to the imaginative, figurative meaning of the poem. Plus, there's that alliteration in "grass grows" to add a little bounce to our step as we keep reading.
  • Line 4: The sun is an important force in nature. Plants and animals alike rely on the sun to help them grow and keep them warm. This sun, however, seems stuck in a perpetual glowing sunset, with a glorious crimson hue.
  • Line 5: The animals found here almost sound super-natural. Mystical sounding moon-birds flit around, building the sense of this place as a magical, metaphorical world of wonder.
  • Line 6: Even the wind on which the moon-bird flies isn't your average wind. It's peppermint! Now this may not be your wind of choice, but imagine that the wind had a taste or scent of your choosing. We suspect something like that would be possible in this new world. You could have chocolate wind, or caramel wind, or grape wind – anything your imagination can dream up. After all, this world is a metaphor for the imagination, and more supernatural than natural, so there are no rules.
  • Line 9: Even in the asphalt of the city, images of nature persist. What do these asphalt flowers make you think of? Could they be flowers poking up out of the cracks in a parking lot? Are they flowers literally made out of hot black asphalt? Or could they be metaphors for all the living things that survive in the city – everything from pigeons to a poor kid struggling to find something to eat to a stockbroker hurrying down the street in his suit? Whatever they represent, the image of asphalt flowers makes us yearn even more to escape the world of the city, so we can see some flowers in their natural habitat.
  • Line 10: Walking slowly but surely seems to be the best possible way to enjoy nature, soaking it in as your feet crunch the grass, and not as you roll by it in a car or a train. Imagine yourself on a lovely stroll through imaginary worlds where the animals and plants sprout up as your heart desires, and even the wind follows your every whim.

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