Friday, November 13, 2009


Tule fog threads the red tips
of bone-gray willow stalks. Water lisps

in an eddy’s clot, cackles through the riffles.
The murmur of crows descends on a downdraft.

The sand and gravel bar below the bridge—
inscribed by braided streams—is a mosaic

of polished stones, lost feathers, the skeletons
of spawned-out salmon: a cuneiform of death and drift.

How many mornings have I stepped into this river,
felt its inexorable pull—a muted ache

unspool an old affliction that never found redress.
And how many mornings have I watched the fog

gleam radiant with the sunrise—
a luminous blizzard of refracted light:

an alchemy, a transubstantiation.

My poem appeared in Inspirit Magazine in 2005. When I took this photo, just this morning, I knew the two would go together.

Monday, November 9, 2009


by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

This poem can be found in Even in Quiet Places (Confluence Press 1996). It's a plain-spoken collection of intimate and thoughtful poems. Stafford also had a way of saying something serious in a playful way. In a piece he called "Sayings for a Dedication Page," William Stafford wrote this about rivers.

What the river wrote we can read:
"Build on high ground."