In the Deep Channel

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
Setting a trotline after sundown
if we went far enough away in the night   
sometimes up out of deep water
would come a secret-headed channel cat,

Eyes that were still eyes in the rush of darkness,   
flowing feelers noncommittal and black,
and hidden in the fins those rasping bone daggers,   
with one spiking upward on its back.

We would come at daylight and find the line sag,   
the fishbelly gleam and the rush on the tether:   
to feel the swerve and the deep current
which tugged at the tree roots below the river.

William Stafford, “In the Deep Channel” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

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 Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities

 William E. Stafford

Biography

"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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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Sports & Outdoor Activities, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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