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A certain heavy kind of wolf June 4, 2012

Posted by Jenny in nature, poetry.
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This is one of my favorite poems by William Stafford. After each stanza I have put a thought of my own in bracketed italics. I don’t agree with everything he says.

The Research Team in the Mountains

We have found a certain heavy kind of wolf.

Haven’t seen it, though—

just know it.

[I like the idea that there is a place in the mountains that has a wolf-shaped space in it, waiting for the actual wolf to arrive.]

Answers are just echoes, they say. But

a question travels before it comes back,

and that counts.

[The question and the answer together amount to a larger question.]

Did you know that here everything is free?

We’ve found days that wouldn’t allow a price

on anything.

[I’ve visited Stafford’s “here,” but it was only in a dream.]

When a dirty river and a clean river

come together the result is—

dirty river.

[Yes, purity with one percent contamination is contaminated.]

If your policy is to be friends in the mountains

a rock falls on you: the only real friends—

you can’t help it.

[The mountains are neither my friends nor my enemies.]

Many go home having “conquered a mountain”—

they leave their names at the top in a jar

for snow to remember.

[Stafford doesn’t realize that one can place one’s name in the jar just for fun, with no notion of conquering.]

Looking out over the campfire at night

again this year I pick a storm for you,

again the first one.

[I would be privileged to receive a storm as a gift.]

We climbed Lostine and Hurricane and Chief Joseph canyons,

finally in every canyon the road ends.

Above that—storms of stone.

[Beautiful.]

*   *   *

William Stafford, 1914 – 1993

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Comments»

1. Thomas Stazyk - June 4, 2012

Thankls! Fantastic poem–I’d never heard of Stafford before.

Jenny - June 4, 2012

Stafford is one of the best poets that most people have never heard of. I like reading his collected poems for the sense I get about his childhood in Kansas and the world that he lived in. One interesting thing about him is that he was a pacifist who served as a conscientious objector in WW2, and yet his language is never especially idealistic—it’s always very down to earth.


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