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  4. Visions by William E. Stafford

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1Once in Mexico an old man was
leading on a string—was it a cat?
And we saw it was a tarantula
sidling along in the dust, writing
a message from God for people who
thought they knew where creature-life ended.

2We came upon scenes like that,
the world back of a lurid pane of glass.   
Like in Reno—they have emptied   
Hollywood and ordered the extras and   
the stars to go get married and divorced   
in Reno, making up their stories as they   
go and letting their little dogs
decide which machines or churches   
to put nickels and dimes into.

3One day in a cut quick to the bone it was   
white, white; and then the world came in.   
I got a tourniquet going, but the snow
had learned a whole new way to look at the sky,   
as in Maryland in the red fields, how the stones   
come startlingly white, on the battlefields,   
the cemeteries, along the gouged-out roads.   
There history blows about on dandelion seeds.

4On the plains near Wakeeney, above the ground,   
short of the earth, at the level of the eyes,   
a sunset ray extended for miles. We drove along   
it, and let our thoughts down gingerly   
to touch what happened, where Genevieve   
lived. She went out of the world, for death.   
Her town holds quiet in the big plain.   
Lights witness one by one all over what   
still abides. There was no one better.   
Her town, her town, her town, the tires   
repeat as we go by.

5For those my friends who want me to know,   
to discover and combine: all my best thoughts   
I roll up and let fall carelessly. It is
better than no one follow even the pattern   
I look onto the back of my hand, for many   
visions I haven’t dared follow may
gather and combine in a flash. Away off.
in a space in the sky, I let the sky look
at me, and I look back and do not say anything.

William Stafford, “Visions” from Going Places (Reno: West Coast Poetry Review, 1974). Reprinted with the permission of The Estate of William Stafford.
Source: Going Places (1974)
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