Reub's journey

17 January 2010

William Stafford: You can't tell when strange things with meaning will happen

It was William Stafford's birthday today, a poet who lived most of his life in Oregon, who started publishing at age 48, and whose most famous poem was also one of his earliest: "Traveling Through the Darkness", the sad title poem for a book that quickly won the National Book Award.

I first read his poetry while standing around awkwardly at a party, perusing the bookshelves. And then when 9/11 happened, the poem pictured above was published in the newspaper; it was written on the morning before his death in 1993. It seemed to have been written for exactly the kind of unexpected jolt that was 9/11. It was a comfort to read it. I don't know if it applies to the situation in Haiti, which we have been thinking about so much lately.

"Are you Mr. William Stafford?"
"Yes, but...."

Well, it was yesterday.
Sunlight used to follow my hand.
And that's when the strange siren-like sound flooded
over the horizon and rushed through the streets of our town.
That's when sunlight came from behind
a rock and began to follow my hand.

"It's for the best," my mother said—"Nothing can
ever be wrong for anyone truly good."
So later the sun settled back and the sound
faded and was gone. All along the streets every
house waited, white, blue, gray: trees
were still trying to arch as far as they could.

You can't tell when strange things with meaning
will happen. I'm [still] here writing it down
just the way it was. "You don't have to
prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready
for what God sends." I listened and put my hand
out in the sun again. It was all easy.

Well, it was yesterday. And the sun came,
It came.

1 comment:

  1. A good thought that fits with the mood of the news. I like this poem very much.


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