Poetry Friday: When to Say Good-bye


Last week’s poem Old Dog by William Stafford became an inspiration for me in 1996. My faithful cocker spaniel was sixteen and a half and led a fabulous life. Here’s my tribute to her:

When to Say Good-bye
Our days together were the ones we already had.
~William Stafford

I sit with my dog
on the kitchen floor;
watching and waiting for movement
of her midnight fur.
Is she breathing?
When will I know it’s time?

She’s a relentless beggar
every meal at my feet.
But not aware
pheasant season is beginning.
She reminds cats, she’s
The Queen.
no longer howls at passing sirens
and wanders forgetting her way.

Seated on the kitchen floor,
my hand rests on fur.
I feel the rattle in her rising breath.
noticing its shallowness.
I smell her age,
a centenarian were she human.
Companion loyal all these years.
Her eyes speak,
it’s time, friend, it’s time.

Poetry Friday is held at Teaching Authors.  Thank you for hosting.

Happy Reading.


Poetry Friday: Old Dog by William Stafford

I returned late from visiting my uncle in Florida. This week, I share one of my favorite poems by William Stafford.

Old Dog

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

Poetry Friday is held at The Opposite of Indifference. Tabatha is thinking ahead about National Poetry Month.

Happy Reading.

Poetry Friday: Why I Am Happy

Last week, my plan was to attend a William Stafford event but the water main at our house decided to burst. Thus, our weekend was spent at our daughter’s house. Oldest grandgirl was over the moon.
I found this poem in the local newspaper with details about events. It’s lovely. Maybe next year I will get to an event.

Why I Am Happy

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.
And I know where it is.

— William Stafford

Poetry Friday is held at HERE.


Happy reading.

Poetry Friday: Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing

On Wednesday, I interviewed Kim Stafford. That link is HERE.

Here’s another great poem by this fabulous poet.

Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing
by William Stafford

The light along the hills in the morning
comes down slowly, naming the trees
white, then coasting the ground for stones to nominate.

Notice what this poem is not doing.

A house, a house, a barn, the old
quarry, where the river shrugs–
how much of this place is yours?

Notice what this poem is not doing.

Every person gone has taken a stone
to hold, and catch the sun. The carving
says, “Not here, but called away.”

Notice what this poem is not doing.

The sun, the earth, the sky, all wait.
The crowns and redbirds talk. The light
along the hills has come, has found you.

Notice what this poem has not done.

I am attending a William Stafford celebration this weekend. Will report back next week.
Poetry Friday is at River No Water. Thank, Renee.

Happy reading.


Interview Wednesday: Five Questions About William Stafford

Today I am honored to have Kim Stafford answering five questions about his father, William Stafford. Kim has been instrumental in the preservation of his father’s writing. He is currently the Northwest Writing Institute, which I had the privilege in attending the summer institute in 1994.

MsMac: How did the cultural and physical landscape of the northwest influence your father’s work?
: William Stafford was born in Kansas, and the prairie was always his ideal landscape—lots of sky, and few obstacles to the long view. He once said that “Oregon’s alright—except the mountains and the trees get in the way of the scenery.” If you look at his poems, though, two very different kinds of landscape appear: the wild (forest, mountains, deserts, rivers, storms, nights, lonely outposts) and the suburban (neighbors, daily routines, local news, human connections like family and friends).

MsMac:Tell a story that defines your father’s role as a parent.
: We were driving somewhere. He started telling a story he had found in a novel, an old one—he couldn’t remember the title. The main character really wanted something. I can’t remember what it was, perhaps a partner, a kind of success. But he did not get what he wanted. The story went on, many detours, much wandering. Eventually, by unanticipated means, the main character achieved his goal. “Life can be like that,” my father said. Only much later did I suspect he made the whole thing up to teach me patience with the ways of destiny.

MsMac: What stance would/did your father use when working with children?
: He had a proverb: “Nothing’s too bad for the kiddies.” This meant the kids will get along one way or another. Of course, he loved us. He was devoted and engaged. But this love was not expressed by extravagance.

MsMac:Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I think about how your dad would give himself permission to “lower the standards.” Do you have a quote of his that you come back to again and again?
: Someone once asked my father, “What is your favorite thing you ever wrote?” His first response: “I love all my children.” But then he added, “I would trade everything I’ve ever written for the next thing.” To me, this says that loyalty to the next adventure of writing is more important than any kind of “success.” Real success is to sustain the sense of free and entrancing exploration of what lies ahead in writing.

MsMac: What do you notice as you look back on your father’s life?
: I have written a book in answer to this question: Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. He was by turns gregarious (teacher, friend, “life of the party”) and solitary (rising before dawn, writing alone daily, “the wanderer”). The thread that bound this variety was his attention to what he called “seeking,” which included close engagement with human life, and also devotion to something beyond.

MsMac: How has your father continued to live on?
: My father is gone, but he left word…left words…left 20,000 poems, and a legacy of welcome to everyone who wishes to try the way of the writer.

Thank you, Kim. By the way, readers, I highly encourage you to explore Kim’s work as well. Go explore “what lies ahead in writing”.


Poetry Friday: A Month of William Stafford

It’s January and I once again dedicate this month to William Stafford. It’s going to be a great month.
Return next Wednesday, as I have an interview with Kim Stafford, his son. But for today “An Oregon Message.”

An Oregon Message

When we first moved here, pulled
the trees in around us, curled
our backs to the wind, no one
had ever hit the moon—no one.
Now our trees are safer than the stars,
and only other people’s neglect
is our precious and abiding shell,
pierced by meteors, radar, and the telephone.

From our snug place we shout
religiously for attention, in order to hide:
only silence or evasion will bring
dangerous notice, the hovering hawk
of the state, or the sudden quiet stare
and fatal estimate of an alerted neighbor.

This message we smuggle out in
its plain cover, to be opened
quietly: Friends everywhere—
we are alive! Those moon rockets
have missed millions of secret
places! Best wishes.

Burn this.
William Stafford

A great place to see William Stafford’s revisions of many poems is at the William Stafford Archives

Poetry Friday is being held at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme. A big welcome to Matt, who is hosting his first ever Poetry Friday.

Happy Reading.