Sunday, September 27, 2009

For William Stafford

For William Stafford

Someone we love, old friend,
has telephoned to let me know
you're gone--and so you are.
I touch the steady books,
my mind casts back then forth,
and says, as you said once,
so long--
I look toward seeing you everywhere.

Henry Taylor 1993

For William Stafford

A gentle, quiet-spoken man.
As a teacher
he seemed to wholly possess
the quality of attention.
It wasn't so much
he didn't talk
but even his talking
seemed to listen.
At 19, I had plenty to say--
I'd just learned to speak
and wasn't ready yet
for hearing.
But somehow deep in the ear
I heard
and planted, long dormant
the seeds of resolve
to someday enter
that quiet space
where the ear speaks
and the tongue listens.

Kimberly King

A Telephone Line Grows Cold

In Memory of William Stafford

Second month after your death,
from dog-days to
frost-on-the -ground already
I arrived in my rental car unannounced
on your sidling street above Lake Oswego.
Home and home, Bill, we kept in touch
over the years, "interacting"
the best we could, but now
all the news I brought seemed cold.
and of all the question I never asked you,
only the silliest remained;
"When you write before dawn enrolled
on that famous sofa
how can your ballpoint pen function properly
writing uphill like that?"
Once, friend, I really wanted to know.

Both cars gone, yours and Dorothy's,
a week's newspapers piled behind
the screen-door--why had I come here?
What would I say, or ask?
Your kindly house, once full of books
and flowers, humped on its lawn
impenetrable as stone.
And yet, as I turned to go,
in some dark interior, a phone began to ring,
and rang, and rang,
emptying room after room with its
ignorant summons, from someone
who did not know you'd gone;
and in the silence after the ringing,
inside that house grown vast
as the Great Plains, I swear
I heard your calm voice answering us all;
"All writing is uphill, friend,
and the words must percolate up."

Jarold Ramsey



for William Stafford

Pale gold and crumbling with crust,
mottled dark, almost bronze,
pieces of honeycomb lie on a plate.
Flecked with the pale paper
of hive, their hexagonal cells
leak into the deepening pool
of amber. On our lips,
against palate, tooth and tongue,
the vicious sugar squeezes
from its chambers, sears sweetness
into your throat until you chew
pulp and wax from the blue city
of bees. Between your teeth
is the blown flower and the flower's
seed. Passport pages stamped
and turning. Death's officious hum,
both the candle and its anther
of flame. Your own yellow hunger.
Never say you can't take
this world into your mouth.

--Paulann Peterson

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