The title of this poem makes me shudder, publicly. But if you were inside my heart, you’d understand. Truth lives inside something other than merely words. It begins, as a statement of gratitude.
I wish I was William Stafford
I wish I was William Stafford. Poems
so kin to soil that at his feet, they became
a man. As tectonic steady as is earth
itself, an unbridled keen eye and hand.
Maybe I’m not ruffled enough, haven’t
layered into dusty roads. Don’t think
he resisted growing into age. He drank
from the cup.
Maybe I’m not peaceful enough.
I resist. Lots. Maybe I look calm and
steady, but I’m as good at illusion as
most of us.
Maybe I’m too clever when I should
just be honest. Honest words, wouldn’t
you listen? But what if my life isn’t real?
What if my life isn’t alive?
What if you made a world and
nobody came? What if people thought
fish were just something to eat? What
if no one left crumbs for crows?
What if dust was just dusted off?
What cuff would carry the seeds?
Coincident wouldn’t be. Rivers would
go unseen, only navigated away.
Like there was someplace else to be.
What if no one drove an old truck to
the beach? Took a child’s hand,
swam across the sea? Wasn’t lost.
What if you made a storm and
everyone flinched? What if no one
understood why scrub brush makes
wind whisper? Who listens close?
Son, be careful what you see.
Say even less, the world the life all
frighten me, worries me. Stand perfect
and still, don’t make words into waves.
Iron your clothes smooth, wrinkles
are dangerous, too loud. Be friendly
so they won’t get personal, ask what’s
inside your clothes.
And whatever you do, don’t ask
about Father, why he’s gone. It hurts
too much, Mother never said. But it
A farm is just a farm, nothing to keep.
Hunger will come later, let’s pretend.
Starvation was slow that way. No one
gave her much hand. Neither the child,
and no excuse.
I am a mountain inside. Outside
crumbling granite answers the rain,
slowly follows down. Who will notice,
understand what patience means?
Most days resemble memory and
mortar, a bowl long polished like silk.
Coyote lurks, rabbit holds very still.
The canyon road in rain, then dry.
Glide fingers through the canyons
of seasoned bark. Read the stories
that sat right here. Nothing hidden,
no chance when fire comes.
Are we here only to escape?
Let soil make grass, let grass make deer.
Somewhere the mountain cat’s stomach
aches. Only what is willing necessity.
When all the forest was finally burned
pine stones finally sighed, became first light.
When my history finally paused, it was dark.
Then light, then just one word.
Are you Mr. William Stafford?
No, you wouldn’t see, wouldn’t know.
And of course we all know better
than that. Don’t we?
It is just a thought, weightless, huh?
Nothing much. But tell me how real
your reality is. Count the rings,
flood and drought.
Far down the valley, somewhere is home.
But I carry some of that right inside my
shoes. Like poems do. But poems
were never the point. Did you see?
Neil Reid © November 2009