Accountability

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
Cold nights outside the taverns in Wyoming
pickups and big semis lounge idling, letting their   
haunches twitch now and then in gusts of powder snow,   
their owners inside for hours, forgetting as well   
as they can the miles, the circling plains, the still town   
that connects to nothing but cold and space and a few   
stray ribbons of pavement, icy guides to nothing   
but bigger towns and other taverns that glitter and wait:   
Denver, Cheyenne.

Hibernating in the library of the school on the hill   
a few pieces by Thomas Aquinas or Saint Teresa
and the fragmentary explorations of people like Alfred   
North Whitehead crouch and wait amid research folders   
on energy and military recruitment posters glimpsed   
by the hard stars. The school bus by the door, a yellow   
mound, clangs open and shut as the wind finds a loose   
door and worries it all night, letting the hollow   
students count off and break up and blow away   
over the frozen ground.

William Stafford, “Accountability” 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)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects School & Learning, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT School & Learning, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.