The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford (Paperback)

Selected Poems of William Stafford

By William Stafford

Harper Perennial, 9780060969165, 160pp.

Publication Date: January 12, 1994

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Description

Chapter One

Family and Children with Kit, Age Seven, at the Beach We would climb the highest dune, from there to gaze and come down: the ocean was performing; we contributed our climb. Waves leapfrogged and came straight out of the storm. What should our gaze mean? K it waited for me to decide. Standing on such a hill, what would you tell your child? That was an absolute vista. Those waves raced far, and cold. "How far could you swim, Daddy, in such a storm?" "As far as was needed," I said, and as I talked, I swam. Passing Remark in scenery I like flat country. In life I don't like much to happen. In personalities I like mild colorless people. And in colors I prefer gray and brown. My wife, a vivid girl from the mountains, says, "Then why did you choose me?" Mildly I lower my brown eyes-- there are so many things admirable people do not understand. At Our House Home late, one lamp turned low, crumpled pillow on the couch, wet dishes in the sink (late snack), in every child's room the checked, slow, sure breath-- Suddenly in this doorway where I stand in this house I see this place again, this time the night as quiet, the house as well secured, all breath but mine borne gently on the air--

And where I stand, no one. Consolations "The broken part heals even stronger than the rest," they say. But that takes awhile. And, "Hurry up," the whole world says. They tap their feet. And it still hurts on rainy afternoons when the same absent sun gives no sign it will ever come back. "What difference in a hundred years?" The barn where Agnes hanged her child will fall by then, and the scrawled words erase themselves on the floor where rats' feet run. Boards curl up. Whole new trees drink what the rivers bring. Things die. "No good thing is easy." They told us that, while we dug our fingers into the stones and looked beseechingly into their eyes. They say the hurt is good for you. It makes what comes later a gift all the more >precious in your bleeding hands.

For a Lost Child What happens is, the kind of snow that sweeps Wyoming comes down while I'm asleep. Dawn finds our sleeping bag but you are gone. Nowhere now, you call through every storm, a voice that wanders without a home. Across bridges that used to find a shore you pass, and along shadows of trees that fell before you were born. You are a memory too strong to leave this world that slips away even as its precious time goes on. " glimpse you often, faithful to every country we ever fo und, a bright shadow the sun forgot one day. On a map of Spain" find your note left from a trip that year our family traveled: "Daddy, we could meet here."

S Memorial: Son Bret In the way you went you were important do not know what you found. In the pattern of my life you stand where you stood always, in the center, a hero, a puzzle, a man. What you might have told me " will never know--the lips went still, the body cold. I am afraid, in the circling stars, in the dark, and even at noon in the light. When I run what am I running from? You turned once to tell me something, but then you glimpsed a shadow on my face and maybe thought, Why tell what hurts? You carried it, my boy,so brave, so far. Now we have all the days, and the sun goes by the same; there is a faint, wandering trail I find sometimes, off through grass and sage. I stop and listen: only summer again--remember?-- The bees, the wind The Light by the Barn The light by the barn that shines all night pales at dawn when a little breeze comes. A little breeze comes breathing the fields from their sleep and waking the slow windmill. The slow windmill sings the long day about anguish and loss to the chickens at work. The little breeze follows the slow windmill and the chickens at work till the sun goes down-- Then the light by the barn again. Any Time Vacation? Well, our children took our love apart: "Why do you hold Daddy's hand?" "Susy's mother doesn't have gray in her hair." And scenes crushed our wonder--Sun Valley, Sawtooths, those reaches of the Inland Passage--while the children took our simple love apart. (Children, how many colors does the light have? Remember the wide shafts of sunlight, roads through the trees, how light examines the road hour by hour? It is all various, no simple on-off colors. And love does not come riding west through the trees to find you. ) "Daddy, tell me your best secret." (I have woven a parachute out o f everything broken; my scars are my shield; and I jump, daylight or dark, into any country, where as I descend I turn native and stumble into terribly human speech and wince recognition.) "When you get old, how do you know what to do?"

(Waves will quiet, wind lull; and in that instant I will have all the time in the world; something deeper thanbirthdays will tell me all I need.) "But will you do right?" (Children, children, oh, see that waterfall.) Long Distance We didn't know at the time. It was for us, a telephone call through the world and nobody answered. We thought it was a train far off giving its horn, roving its headlight side to side in its tunnel of darkness and shaking the bridge and our house till dishes rattled, and going away. We thought it a breath climbing the well where Kim almost fell in; it was a breath saying his name, and "Almost got you," but we piled boards

and bricks on top and held off that voice. Or maybe it was the song in the stove-- walnut and elm giving forth stored sunlight through that narrow glass eye on the front in the black door that held in the fire. Or a sigh from under the mound of snow where Bret's little car with its toy wheels nestled all winter ready to roll, come spring, and varoom when his feet toddled it along. Or--listen--in the cardboard house we built by the kitchen wall, a doorknob drawn with crayon, Kit's little window peeking out by the table--is it a message from there? And from Aunt Helen's room where she sews all day on a comforter made out of pieces of Grandma's

dresses, and the suits for church--

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