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Five poems by William Stafford

An incident One summer evening in the world, the air warm, I walked from home out into a field, open, alone-- grass and hills. And there I lay down with my face pressed easily deep in the grass, to smell the green smell, and feel with my hands the firm steady earth. Only an hour I stayed there on the ground, breathing slow breath, for just being there, for the lives around me, for childhood, for all that has been, and for now.

Why it is dark in church Every spring a call from the woods rouses our valley: ''It's us again, the purple birds, back from Mexico!'' Indigo shapes weave among shadows too dark for anything but flashing glimpses of bill or wing. What they bring is another world, where paths lead winding ways, where darkness waits, and sudden as a knife in sunlight the pure white quivering of April breathes toward May-- then the fumbling flowers and all their denying and the stained glass window of June.

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Windy day A sound goes by--maybe geese, maybe wind-flute, maybe only something your ear gave the world. You take it from there: other news gets a place, but this is your own, and only those who hear it can have it. For all the others this is news that didn't happen. More quiet later, your own events hardly are true any more. They go in and out--there, not there. But you report what you know: the good and the beautiful don't exist except like a sound or sight that happens to meet a friend.

Farewell at a writers' conference As you go out, notice the barrel by the door. It is for whatever you'd like to discard--those claims you accepted for awhile from someone forceful or loud but not really your cup of tea, those heavy opinions balanced on fragile foundations in arguments. We invite you to retain your tickets for noticing things-- how sunlight is wide and democratic, how the rain doesn't care who you are, how sounds will follow you home and become songs that play back whenever you want them to. A crow, a gull, a foghorn--keep these for your dreams.

Hats by our house A bluebird, a bat, a baldheaded hat, a witch without a broomstick under a parasol, a helmet hiding plots on an officer, a beer-ad hard hat, and that fetching kerchief girl next door, a flat- headed scholar with a book on his mind , that Doberman-ear trot-by, the kid from Texas walk, and the warrior down the street with his head full of arrows. Little Mrs. Bales and her bonneted baby, the ski family back station-wagoning home under snow, and my friend the wind with an empty, brim over brim.


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