An Oregon Message

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
When we first moved here, pulled   
the trees in around us, curled   
our backs to the wind, no one   
had ever hit the moon—no one.
Now our trees are safer than the stars,   
and only other people's neglect   
is our precious and abiding shell,
pierced by meteors, radar, and the telephone.

From our snug place we shout
religiously for attention, in order to hide:   
only silence or evasion will bring
dangerous notice, the hovering hawk
of the state, or the sudden quiet stare   
and fatal estimate of an alerted neighbor.

This message we smuggle out in   
its plain cover, to be opened   
quietly: Friends everywhere—
we are alive! Those moon rockets   
have missed millions of secret   
places! Best wishes.

Burn this.

William Stafford, “An Oregon Message” from Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems.  Copyright © 1987 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

Source: The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998)

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Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Nature, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 William E. Stafford


"If you have been wondering where the articulate, readable poems have gone in the last third of the 20th century, you might start with [William] Stafford," declares Victor Howes of the Christian Science Monitor. A pacifist and one of "the quiet of the land," as he often describes himself, Stafford is known for his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice, and his independence from social and literary expectations. As

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SUBJECT Nature, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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