The Farm on the Great Plains

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
A telephone line goes cold;
birds tread it wherever it goes.
A farm back of a great plain
tugs an end of the line.

I call that farm every year,
ringing it, listening, still;
no one is home at the farm,
the line gives only a hum.

Some year I will ring the line
on a night at last the right one,
and with an eye tapered for braille
from the phone on the wall

I will see the tenant who waits—
the last one left at the place;
through the dark my braille eye
will lovingly touch his face.

“Hello, is Mother at home?”
No one is home today.
“But Father—he should be there.”
No one—no one is here.

“But you—are you the one . . . ?”
Then the line will be gone
because both ends will be home:
no space, no birds, no farm.

My self will be the plain,
wise as winter is gray,
pure as cold posts go
pacing toward what I know.

William Stafford, “The Farm on the Great Plains” from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Poetry (January 1958).

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Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics