From far a light, maybe a hill ranch
remote and unvisited, beams on the horizon
when we pass; then it is gone.
For the rest of our lives that far place
waits; it’s an increment, one more
hollow that slips by out there, almost
a gift, an acquaintance taken away.
Still, beyond all ranches the deep
night waits, breathing when we breathe,
always ready to offer new light,
over and over, so long as we search
for something so faint most people
won’t know, even when it is found.
from Even in Quiet Places, p. 4, by William Stafford
The least little sound sets the coyotes walking,
walking the edge of our comfortable earth.
We look inward, but all of them
are looking toward us as they walk the earth.
We need to let animals loose in our houses,
the wolf to escape with a pan in his teeth,
and streams of animals toward the horizon
racing with something silent in each mouth.
For all we have taken into our keeping
and polished with our hands belongs to a truth
greater than ours, in the animals’ keeping.
Coyotes are circling around our truth.
THINKING FOR BERKY
In the late night listening from bed
I have joined the ambulance or the patrol
screaming toward some drama, the kind of end
that Berky must have some day, if she isn’t dead.
The wildest of all, her father and mother cruel,
farming out there beyond the old stone quarry
where highschool lovers parked their lurching cars,
Berky learned to love in that dark school.
Early her face was turned away from home
toward any hardworking place; but still her soul,
with terrible things to do, was alive, looking out
for the rescue that–surely, some day–would have to come.
Windiest nights, Berky, I have thought for you,
and no matter how lucky I’ve been I’ve touched wood.
There are things not solved in our town though tomorrow came:
there are things time passing can never make come true.
We live in an occupied country, misunderstood;
justice will take us millions of intricate moves.
Sirens will hunt down Berky, you survivors in your beds
listening through the night, so far and good.
A RITUAL TO READ TO EACH OTHER
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.