– a poem from Even in Quiet Places
When they criticize you how do you
hold your wings? I hold mine out
and down, descend a little, then more.
Cool air comes. Nobody cares how low
I descend, and the way my eyes close
makes me disappear. They have their sky again.
So thin a life I have, scribbling dust
when I turn, trailing as if to follow
something inside the earth, something beyond
this place. If I accept what comes,
another sky is there. My serious face
bends to the ground, the dust, the lowered wings.
This remarkable little piece is an exacting view of self and other. I’m always amazed by how Stafford – as he put it – “closed down a poem”. Ending with the wings lowered is an such inviting image for the reader.
I like the hush and near stillness in a Stafford poem. Here, the thin life that scribbles dust is quite strong. And the trail that is followed? … not spelled out. There’s no need. That would hinder the force of the poem. He writes, “something beyond / this place” – and leaves it at that.
One of his great gifts is his ability to always engage the reader. The writing is very direct. All the excess, gone. The words – in all his work – clean and minimal … but the thoughts are immense, unstoppable, life-changing.