Even in Quiet Places

  It is a secret still, but already your tree

is chosen. It has entered a forest for miles

and hides deep in a valley by a river.

No one else finds it; the sun passes over

not noticing. But even while you are reading

you happen to think of that tree,

no matter where

sentences go, talking about other things.

The author tries to be casual, to turn

from the secret. But you know exactly

what is out there.

You set forth alone.

"William Stafford's original dedication to Who Are You Really, Wanderer,

reprinted in Even in Quiet Places

When William Stafford died at age 79 in 1993, says his writer son, Kim, it was a shock to many of his readers. He seemed as enduring as the Northwestern landscape he celebrated. In a new book of his later poems, we see again how his deceptively plain lines interweave strong feelings with natural settings. In "Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron," Stafford, a pacifist and conscientious objector during World War II, describes the birds this way:

"Out of their loneliness for each other

two reeds, or maybe two shadows, lurch

forward and become suddenly a life

lifted from dawn or the rain. It is

the wilderness come back again, a lagoon

with our city reflected in its eye. ..."

This collection includes what was probably his final work, the Methow River poems, seven of which can be seen on roadside posts through the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The project was an inspired collaboration between Forest Service staffers and Stafford, who was asked to contribute "poetry road signs' (HCN, 11/28/94). You can read them again and again and feel refreshed.

Even in Quiet Places, Poems by William Stafford, afterword by Kim Stafford, is published by Confluence Press, Lewis-Clark State College, 500 8th Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501-2698. 120 pages softcover, $11.

*Betsy Marston

High Country News Classifieds