William Stafford

Poets as Translators - William Stafford

 

Poems:

(1) Waiting for God
(2) Cover Up
(3) An Excursion
(4) Passing Along
 

Translation from the Japanese:

 

(1) Hi There

 

 

William Stafford

Waiting for God


This morning I breathed in. It had rained
early and the sycamore leaves tapped
a few drops that remained, while waving
the air's memory back and forth
over the lawn and into our open
window. Then I breathed out.

This deliberate day eased
past the calendar and waited. Patiently
the sun instructed the shadows how to move;
it held them, guided their gradual defining.
In the great quiet I carried my life on,
in again, out again.

 



William Stafford

Cover Up


One thing, don't worry about the mountains;
and some trees, even, might survive, looking
over a shoulder from places too cold for us.

And ahead there, where the lake was, where
we scattered our garbage, the heavy old sludge
will abide for a long, long time.

And some things never told will hide in the deep water:
You know, when the spotlight swings, they dive
and will never come out on land.

 



William Stafford

An Excursion


Plunging over Niagara you hold
this picture in your hand: a summer day
arranging itself serenely onward, a lawn,
daisies, roses, a single pine in the sky
with a crow flying and a flicker calling, then
all stopped in the camera, one tremendous
instant that the world will never achieve again.

Now you own that, just for the cost of reading
this page. Assemble yourself and go on.
Don't worry about it. No, I didn't 
mean you really plunge over Niagara.

 



William Stafford

Passing Along


People who walk by carry something so light
that no one can tell what it is. I know that burden,
lift it carefully from them and take it away
     as they go on walking toward the sky.

Waiting here still I cherish whatever they find--
miles of lupine ghosting the hills,
an accurate bird whetting its call
     beyond the hedgerows where they disappear.

"All I ask," my mother said, "no matter the years
and the life we have, is that when you leave 
you turn and wave." That was long ago.
     I like to remember -- I turn, I wave.

 



Shuntaro Tanikawa

Hi There


One of the trees in the big forest
called out, "Hi there,"
but none of the others answered,
except -- in a kitchen far away
a cutting board fell from a shelf.

The sieve laughed at this; 
the clay pot didn't move,
but the butcher knife shivered, remembering
a slash at a girl's finger last night.

The tree doesn't know 
how the knife got drunk
on that gush of blood.

(Translated from the Japanese by Yorifumi Yaguchi and William Stafford)

 


 

 

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