Transcendence of Janus

By Frank Stanford 1948–1978 Frank Stanford
I am not asleep, but I see
a limb, the fingers of death, the ghost
of an anonymous painter
leaving the prints of death
on the wall; the bright feathers
of soft birds blowing
away in the forest;
the bones of fish and
the white backs of strange women;
your breathing
like the slow thunder
on the other side of some river
as you sleep beside me; old
dancing teachers weeping in their offices;
toads with bellies as quiet
as girls asleep in mansions, dreaming
of saddles and pulling the sheets
between their legs; fireflies
going to sleep on moonseed flowers
around a plantation gazebo at dawn;
a girl sweating in bed; hawks drifting
through the moon; a woman’s hair,
the flavor of death, floating
in the fog like a flag
on a ship full of ghosts,
the ghosts of soldiers
searching for the graves of their mothers; june bugs
listening to Leoncavallo;
christ weeping on Coney Island,
inevitable, like a fissure
in a faggot’s ass; a widower
with no sons, a lonesome janitor,
a worm in the sun, the dusty sockets
of poets, who have lost their eyes, their

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, Death, Nature

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, Death, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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