Monday, April 20, 2009

tuned in late one night

Tuned in Late One Night

Listen - this is a faint station
left alive in the vast universe.
I was left here to tell you a message
designed for your instruction or comfort,
but now that my world is gone I crave
expression pure as all the space
around me: I want to tell what is....

Remember? - we learned that still-face way,
to wait in election or meeting and then
to choose the side that wins, a leader
that lasted, a president that stayed in?
But some of us knew even then it was better
to lose if that was the way our chosen
side came out, in truth, at the end.

It's like this, truth is: it's looking out while everything
happens; being in a place of your own,
between your ears; and any person
you face will get the full encounter
or your self. When you hear any news
you ought to register delight or pain
depending on where you really live.

Now I am fading, with this ambition:
to read with my brights full on,
to write on a clear glass typewriter,
to listen with sympathy,
to speak like a child.
I spot the neighbor’s dog scampering across the lawn
with my name in its mouth,
leaving me to wander through the house anonymously
and scour the telephone directory for an alias.

When I say my name out loud it sounds like
someone else’s, a character in a play who cheats
the hero and comes to a bad end, or an obscure
athlete lost in the deep encyclopedia of baseball.

When I try writing it down on paper
I find I have also lost my signature. My hand
feels retarded, unable to perform its inky trick,
that unmistakable, eerie, Arabic flourish.

Perhaps the dog was never given a name
and is now eating mine with pleasure
under a porch in the cool, lattice-shadowed dirt.

Perhaps late tonight I will hear the voice
of my neighbor as she stands at her back door,
hands cupped around her mouth, calling my name,
and I will leap the hedge and come running.

--William Stafford

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