The Pump

By Frank Stanford 1948–1978 Frank Stanford
There was always a lizard
Or a frog around the pump,
Waiting for a little extra water
Or a butterfly to light.

Jimmy said the pump gave him the worms.
I got the worms under the slick boards.
The pump would bite you in the winter.
It got hold of Jimmy and wouldn’t let go.

The blades of Johnson grass were tall
And sharp around the pump stand.
I had to hoe them all the time
Nobody filled the prime jar, though.

One time, I cut the tongue
Out of a Buster Brown shoe
And gave it to the pump.
It made a good sucker washer.

Sometimes the pump seemed like Jesus.
I liked bathing buck naked
Under the pump,
Not in a goddamn washtub.

Estate of Frank Stanford © C.D. Wright

Source: The Singing Knives (Lost Road Publishers, 1979)

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Poet Frank Stanford 1948–1978

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Youth, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Activities, Jobs & Working

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Born in 1948, Stanford was a prolific poet known for his originality and ingenuity. He has been dubbed “a swamprat Rimbaud” by Lorenzo Thomas and “one of the great voices of death” by Franz Wright. He grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, and then Arkansas, where he lived for most of his life and wrote many of his most powerful poems. He attended the University of Arkansas from 1967-9 and studied engineering while continuing to . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Relationships, Friends & Enemies, Activities, Jobs & Working

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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