April is National Poetry Month: Fixers

The anthology I have chosen today is The Way It Is, New and Selected Poems by William Stafford. This collection combines previously unpublished poems written close to his death and selections from previous books.  I had not read much of William Stafford's poems until I heard him speak with his son Kim at a NCTE conference about twenty years ago. After that day I was a loyal follower of his work. I really like the second section of this book that includes in order the last poems he wrote before his death in 1993. There are poems about family, other poets, history of place, nature, and retirement. The following selection is an example of how Stafford can depict everyday people that we recognize and have known all our lives.

On back roads you can find people
who keep machinery alive. With a file,
a wrench, a hammer they scrape, twist
and pound until the old tractor wakes up
or the plough bites again into the ground.

I've bullied rusty iron and made it
remember what to do, and once on a back road
I put out a fire under the hood of a car;
but these greasy geniuses have to conjure
miracles day after day just to keep going.

Often their audience is a customer eager to
get started again, or maybe their little daughter
watching how Daddy fixes things. And sometimes
only an old dog-wise in when to jump aside-
studies mechanics and barks when The Master says,

-William Stafford

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