Friday, September 25, 2009



Ours are the streets where Bess
first met her cancer. She went to work
every day past the secure houses.
At her job in the library
she arranged better and better flowers,
and when students asked for books
her hand went out to help.
In the last year of her life
she had to keep her friends
from knowing how happy they were.
She listened while they complained
about food or work or the weather.
And the great national events danced
their grotesque, fake importance.

Pain moved where she moved. She walked
ahead; it came. She hid; it found her.
No one ever served another so truly;
no enemy ever meant so strong a hate.
It was almost as if there was no room
left for her on earth.
But she remembered
where joy used to live.
She straightened its flowers;
she did not weep when she passed
its houses; and when finally
she pulled into a tiny corner
and slipped from pain,
her hand opened again,
and the streets opened,
and she wished all well.

William Stafford

Posted over on Poetry Foundation
William Stafford, “Bess” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems.

No comments: