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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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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.


by William Stafford | |

Allegiances

 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.


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.


by William Stafford | |

Waking at 3 a.m.

 Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn't matter--even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.
You think water in the river; you think slower than the tide in the grain of the wood; you become a secret storehouse that saves the country, so open and foolish and empty.
You look over all that the darkness ripples across.
More than has ever been found comforts you.
You open your eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything, has always been there, will always remain.
It is a good world to be lost in.
It comforts you.
It is all right.
And you sleep.


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.


by William Stafford | |

Security

 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


by William Stafford | |

This Life

 With Kit, Age 7, 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? Kit 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.


by William Stafford | |

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.


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.


by William Stafford | |

Objector

 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.


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.