“Our Story” by 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 a different way.
We’ll both end. We’ll both begin.

Remind me again.

“Freedom” by William Stafford (repost)

Freedom is not following a river.
Freedom is following a river
though, if you want to.

It is deciding now by what happens now.
It is knowing that luck makes a difference.

No leader is free; no follower is free–
the rest of us can often be free.
Most of the world are living by
creeds too odd, chancy, and habit-forming
to be worth arguing about by reason.

If you are oppressed, wake up about
four in the morning; most places
you can usually be free some of the time
if you wake up before other people.

from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems
Copyright 1998 by Graywolf Press

***

Originally posted May 26, 2016; Brian Dean Powers included this piece during “Words With Brian” (his week of “hosting” Words for the Year). See his other selections here.

 

“Remembering” by William Stafford

When there was air, when you could
breathe any day if you liked, and if you
wanted to you could run. I used to
climb those hills back of town and
follow a gully so my eyes were at ground
level and could look out through grass as the
stems
bent in their tensile way, and see snow
mountains follow along, the way distance goes.

Now I carry those days in a tiny box
wherever I go, I open the lid like this
and let the light glimpse and then glance away.
There is a sigh like my breath when I do this.
Some days I do this again and again.

William Stafford, from The Darkness Around Us Is Deep

“Peonies” by Jim Harrison

The peonies, too heavy with their beauty,
slump to the ground. I had hoped
they would live forever but ever so slowly
day by day they’re becoming the soil of their birth
with a faint tang of deliquescence around them.
Next June they’ll somehow remember to come alive again,
a little trick we have or have not learned.

“Peonies” by Jim Harrison from In Search of Small Gods. © Copper Canyon Press, 2010.

“Sorrow” by Shara McCallum

There are too many poems on the subject of sorrow.
Why pile one more on this dung heap of sorrow?

Once upon a time always promises wonder. We remember,
too late, the breadcrumb-less woods of sorrow.

You fall asleep nightly rehearsing a lie:
Tomorrow I’ll end it, my love affair with sorrow.

A woman is singing again. Who is she this time?
No matter. Her voice grinds the whetstone of sorrow.

What a choice we’re given: to hold on to the dead
or let them vanish to try to vanquish our sorrow.

I speak my name out loud into my shiny new iPhone.
On the screen, Siri spells it out for me: Sorrow.

Shara McCallum, “Sorrow” from Madwoman. Copyright © 2017 by Shara McCallum.