Poetry: William Stafford, Wendell Berry and Linda Garrow

Poetry from the field.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
May/June 1984
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Conventional publishing wisdom claims that it's a mistake to run poetry in a "consumer" magazine. However, although that may often be true, we're convinced that MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers are the kind of people who look for beauty in the practical and search out practicality in the beautiful . . . and who realize that good poetry can be useful as well as inspiring. In fact, the best of poems can help us recognize the wonderful—and often well-hidden—similarities that all humans share . . . and, by doing so, can make each of us feel a little bit less alone. The poetry included in this occasional feature—be it brand-new or previously published, written by a recognized poet or a first-timer—will be material that, in the eyes of MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors, helps us see ourselves in the words of others. It's that quality, and the fact that the work presented here will reflect the range of subject areas usually presented in this magazine, that gave this feature its name: Fieldbook.  

Traveling through the Dark  

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

—William Stafford

From the book Traveling through the Dark by William Stafford. Copyright 1960. 1962 by William Stafford. Reprinted with permission of Harper & Row, Publishers Inc. 

Garden Fork a Go-Go 

The boy grabs the handle
Forces flat prongs into the ground
Jumps up and down . . .

He digs
Dancing.

—Linda Garrow
Fredonia, NY

Our Children, Coming of Age  

In the great circle, dancing in
and out of time, you move now
toward your partners, answering
the music suddenly audible to you
that only carried you before
and will carry you again.
When you meet the destined ones
now dancing toward you,
we will be in line behind you,
out of your awareness for the time,
we whom you know, others we remember
whom you do not remember, others
forgotten by us all.
When you meet, and hold love
in your arms, regardless of all,
the unknown will dance away from you
toward the horizon of light.
Our names will flutter
on these hills like little fires.

—Wendell Berry

Excerpted from The Wheel: Poems by Wendell Berry. Copyright 1982 by Wendell Berry. Published by North Point Press and reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. 


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