Toward the last in the morning she could not
get up, even when I rattled her pan.
I helped her into the yard, but she stumbled
and fell. I knew it was time.
The last night a mist drifted over the fields.
In the morning she would not raise her head–
the far, clear mountains we had walked
surged back to mind.
We looked a slow bargain: our days together
were the ones we had already had.
I gave her something the vet had given,
and patted her still, a good last friend.
– William Stafford, from Someday, Maybe
The Epitaph Ending in And
In the last storm, when hawks
blast upward and a dove is
driven into the grass, its broken wings
a delicate design, the air between
wracked thin where it stretched before,
a clear spring bent close too often
(that Earth should ever have such wings
burnt on in blind color!), this will
good as an epitaph:
Doves did not know where fly, and
– William Stafford, from The Rescued Year
It seems fitting to end National Poetry Month with another from William Stafford.
Remind me again – together we
trace our strange journey, find
each other, come on laughing.
Some time we’ll cross where life
ends. We’ll both look back
as far as forever, that first day.
I’ll touch you – a new world then.
Stars will move in a different way.
We’ll both end. We’ll both begin.
Remind me again.
– William Stafford, from Stories That Could Be True
More from Stafford at the William Stafford Archives.
Today brings the second of three Stafford poems making their appearance on the blog during National Poetry Month. “Ask Me” is one of his more well known poems. For me, it’s a poem that resonates. Oftentimes, I’ve found myself hiking or exploring the hills of a battlefield and been stopped by the natural sounds around me. It’s hard to put into words, but there’s something that comes with listening to the wind and the trees, feeling the sun reflect off boulders that manages to say what I feel or what I need to hear at the moment. Sometimes what the river says is what I say.
Yesterday’s Atwood poem made it into the blog thanks to a recent book-club pick of one of her novels. I think The Handmaid’s Tale was the first Atwood I read. Then I ended up in her poetry. Now I’m back to the novels. Chickie Nobs for everyone!
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.