Sample Poems


–          William Stafford


I look out the second floor apartment

window and across the street

my daughter, her husband, and

their new dog are playing in

the Brooklyn snow.  It means

they are happy, right?


Since I am her father

it is an important question.

Some, like me, call her an angel.

Others say she is a healer.

Is that what she wants?

Angel. Healer. Who can live like that?


How long does hope last if you’re not?

Or you’re not sure? Or the questions

stop?  There is always returning to the

prairie, to what is known as “brutal cold,”

to what you know.  But for now I’ll watch

them play, as the grey day becomes dark.





TO THE REV. R. S. THOMAS (1913-2000)


Many have told me what

An honor it must be to

Stroke the hair and forehead

Of the dying old woman.

How many, how many

Does it take to claim

Such a privilege? And what

Of the stillbirths and infant

Dead?  The earth is hard

For a buried bed, a cold

Face and hands no one will hold.



All of these dogs
were bouncing and
playing on the tracks.
Trains came often and I
was trying to warn
the dogs that their
lives were in danger,
a horrible death could
happen if they
didn’t stop messing
around on the tracks.
They would not listen.
They were having so
much fun.  I was
dying with fear and
the image of the remains
when Union Pacific,
or was it the Rock Island,
came through.  I was just
a young boy but I
was trying to be a man.
That’s what I could not
convince the dogs of, that
I was a man.  I am still
working at it, still calling
the dogs away from the
tracks, the noise of
so many trains keeping
me awake all night.  I was
this close to being a man.


I want fifteen (for now) important items
tended to in a timely manner:

Trim my toe nails
Trim my finger nails

Trim nose and ear hairs
Make sure my socks are clean

And my underwear, especially my underwear
And my glasses

I want my hair cut handsomely short and neat

like my scotch

I want my children, grand children and

great grand children to know I
am alive until I am not

Find the damn democrats some GUTS


Ask Cora to explain “SELF AS SOULMATE”

Treat every faith and non-faith
community carefully, we are
all terribly wounded

I am a “veteran of the cross” so see
if some money can come of it

When I stop laughing
someone pick up where I left off

Do you have any questions?



There are continents
looking for a sign
of faithfulness
to the end.
And there is you.
The walk you promised
yourself along the edge
of one land mass
also brings you close
to your voyage.  My
adventure will be to sit
on this front porch
and taste the passion
of the thunderstorm
rolling across the prairie
from the west,
from all we never touched.


It looked blue to me
but as you all know
I have been wrong
before.  No one I
talked to on the
Turkish coast could
give an explanation
for the name.  It seems
one of those mysteries
we face when we are
the least bit alert
or very lost.  When climbing
out of our painful
selves we often will
attempt a bargain, make
a deal between where
we have been and what
we can’t quite see
ahead.  In this case
trying to bluff is very
dangerous.  None of us
really has what some
call a “poker face.”
We give it dead away.
Just go the way of the
Prophet named Oti
(we think), and this wisdom:
“Poetry is like driving a truck
5,000 miles to a town
worse than yours.”






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