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Best Famous William Stafford Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous William Stafford poems. This is a select list of the best famous William Stafford poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous William Stafford poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of William Stafford poems.

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Written by William Stafford |

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

 If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind, a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood storming out to play through the broken dyke.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail, but if one wanders the circus won't find the park, I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy, a remote important region in all who talk: though we could fool each other, we should consider-- lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
For it is important that awake people be awake, or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep; the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe-- should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

Written by William Stafford |

Graydiggers Home

 Paw marks near one burrow show Graydigger
at home, I bend low, from down there swivel
my head, grasstop level--the world
goes on forever, the mountains a bigger
burrow, their snow like last winter.
From a room inside the world even the strongest wind has a soft sound: a new house will hide in the grass; footsteps are only the summer people.
The real estate agent is saying, "Utilities .
easy payments, a view.
" I see my prints in the dirt.
Out there in the wind we talk about credit, security-- there on the bank by Graydigger's home.

Written by William Stafford |

Lit Instructor

 Day after day up there beating my wings
with all the softness truth requires
I feel them shrug whenever I pause:
they class my voice among tentative things,

And they credit fact, force, battering.
I dance my way toward the family of knowing, embracing stray error as a long-lost boy and bringing him home with my fluttering.
Every quick feather asserts a just claim; it bites like a saw into white pine.
I communicate right; but explain to the dean-- well, Right has a long and intricate name.
And the saying of it is a lonely thing.

More great poems below...

Written by William Stafford |


 In line at lunch I cross my fork and spoon
to ward off complicity--the ordered life
our leaders have offered us.
Thin as a knife, our chance to live depends on such a sign while others talk and The Pentagon from the moon is bouncing exact commands: "Forget your faith; be ready for whatever it takes to win: we face annihilation unless all citizens get in line.
" I bow and cross my fork and spoon: somewhere other citizens more fearfully bow in a place terrorized by their kind of oppressive state.
Our signs both mean, "You hostages over there will never be slaughtered by my act.
" Our vows cross: never to kill and call it fate.

Written by William Stafford |

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid

 There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot--air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing voice that finds its way by being afraid.
That country is there, for us, carried as it is crossed.
What you fear will not go away: it will take you into yourself and bless you and keep you.
That's the world, and we all live there.

Written by William Stafford |

When I Met My Muse

 I glanced at her and took my glasses
off--they were still singing.
They buzzed like a locust on the coffee table and then ceased.
Her voice belled forth, and the sunlight bent.
I felt the ceiling arch, and knew that nails up there took a new grip on whatever they touched.
"I am your own way of looking at things," she said.
"When you allow me to live with you, every glance at the world around you will be a sort of salvation.
" And I took her hand.

Written by William Stafford |


 Tomorrow will have an island.
Before night I always find it.
Then on to the next island.
These places hidden in the day separate and come forward if you beckon.
But you have to know they are there before they exist.
Some time there will be a tomorrow without any island.
So far, I haven't let that happen, but after I'm gone others may become faithless and careless.
Before them will tumble the wide unbroken sea, and without any hope they will stare at the horizon.
So to you, Friend, I confide my secret: to be a discoverer you hold close whatever you find, and after a while you decide what it is.
Then, secure in where you have been, you turn to the open sea and let go.

Written by William Stafford |

Across Kansas

 My family slept those level miles
but like a bell rung deep till dawn
I drove down an aisle of sound,
nothing real but in the bell,
past the town where I was born.
Once you cross a land like that you own your face more: what the light struck told a self; every rock denied all the rest of the world.
We stopped at Sharon Springs and ate-- My state still dark, my dream too long to tell.

Written by William Stafford |

Returned To Say

 When I face north a lost Cree
on some new shore puts a moccasin down,
rock in the light and noon for seeing,
he in a hurry and I beside him

It will be a long trip; he will be a new chief;
we have drunk new water from an unnamed stream;
under little dark trees he is to find a path
we both must travel because we have met.
Henceforth we gesture even by waiting; there is a grain of sand on his knifeblade so small he blows it and while his breathing darkens the steel his become set And start a new vision: the rest of his life.
We will mean what he does.
Back of this page the path turns north.
We are looking for a sign.
Our moccasins do not mark the ground.

Written by William Stafford |


 It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any, time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.
Far to the north, or indeed in any direction, strange mountains and creatures have always lurked- elves, goblins, trolls, and spiders:-we encounter them in dread and wonder, But once we have tasted far streams, touched the gold, found some limit beyond the waterfall, a season changes, and we come back, changed but safe, quiet, grateful.
Suppose an insane wind holds all the hills while strange beliefs whine at the traveler's ears, we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love where we are, sturdy for common things.

Written by William Stafford |

Remembering Mountain Men

 I put my foot in cold water
and hold it there: early mornings
they had to wade through broken ice
to find the traps in the deep channel
with their hands, drag up the chains and
the drowned beaver.
The slow current of the life below tugs at me all day.
When I dream at night, they save a place for me, no matter how small, somewhere by the fire.

Written by William Stafford |

Just Thinking

 Got up on a cool morning.
Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind.
Air that flowers held for awhile.
Some dove somewhere.
Been on probation most of my life.
And the rest of my life been condemned.
So these moments count for a lot--peace, you know.
Let the bucket of memory down into the well, bring it up.
Cool, cool minutes.
No one stirring, no plans.
Just being there.
This is what the whole thing is about.

Written by William Stafford |

Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing

 The light along the hills in the morning
comes down slowly, naming the trees
white, then coasting the ground for stones to nominate.
Notice what this poem is not doing.
A house, a house, a barn, the old quarry, where the river shrugs-- how much of this place is yours? Notice what this poem is not doing.
Every person gone has taken a stone to hold, and catch the sun.
The carving says, "Not here, but called away.
" Notice what this poem is not doing.
The sun, the earth, the sky, all wait.
The crowns and redbirds talk.
The light along the hills has come, has found you.
Notice what this poem has not done.

Written by William Stafford |

Traveling Through The Dark

 Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing; she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason-- her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting, alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights; under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red; around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--, then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Written by William Stafford |

Ask Me

 Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made.
Ask me whether what I have done is my life.
Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt: ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait.
We know the current is there, hidden; and there are comings and goings from miles away that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.