“Unless you are at home in the metaphor,” Robert Frost wrote, “you are not safe anywhere.” Frost gives an example of metaphor-blindness in his great poem “Home Burial.” A young couple has lost a child. The wife is in prolonged mourning. The husband thinks it’s time to move on. The wife is outraged that her husband, after burying their child near their house, and with dirt still on his shoes, could speak of “everyday concerns.” “I can repeat the very words you were saying,” she says:
“Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.”
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlor.
The answer she expects to her question (which Frost doesn’t grace with a question mark, since it’s not a real question) is: nothing. The husband can hardly say, in his own self-defense, “I was speaking metaphorically. By the birch fence, I meant our family.”