You Reading This, Be Ready
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life.
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
– William Stafford
For more information about this poet, visit williamstafford.org
Here’s a new series of posts that I’m really excited about. As his students may remember, Jim starts off his classes reading a poem. This is a treasured memory for me: not only does Jim have incredible taste in modern poetry, but he’s masterful at reading poetry to others.
Jim has kindly sent me some of his poetry selections and I’m going to start posting them. I hope it inspires both Jim Shepard fans and aspiring fiction writers to read more poetry, something Jim has always encouraged us to do.
Requiem for the Croppies
The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.
If you’re interested in learning more about rich history behind the poem, here’s a good blog post on the topic.