After Arguing against the Contention That Art Must Come from Discontent

Whispering to each handhold, “I'll be back,”   
I go up the cliff in the dark. One place   
I loosen a rock and listen a long time
till it hits, faint in the gulf, but the rush
of the torrent almost drowns it out, and the wind—
I almost forgot the wind: it tears at your side   
or it waits and then buffets; you sag outward. . . .

I remember they said it would be hard. I scramble   
by luck into a little pocket out of
the wind and begin to beat on the stones
with my scratched numb hands, rocking back and forth
in silent laughter there in the dark—
“Made it again!” Oh how I love this climb!
—the whispering to stones, the drag, the weight   
as your muscles crack and ease on, working   
right. They are back there, discontent,
waiting to be driven forth. I pound
on the earth, riding the earth past the stars:   
“Made it again! Made it again!”

William Stafford, “After Arguing Against the Contention That Art Must Come from Discontent” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1982 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,
Source: The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998)
More Poems by William E. Stafford