Two Poems

A grove of narrow, straight trees
photo: pixabay


A wandering musician from afar
arrives on foot, dusty with the journey,
and quietly performs while strolling
the strange city, steps lightly alone
through crowded bazaar, traffic-choked
knot, sings a snatch of old song, hums
a rising scale that climbs through tenements,
threads the seething kink of honk
and curse, sings through smoke, strums
through rank despair that billows
from money rubbing on pain,
in order to hear, follow, and find
any other wandering player in the thick of it
also strumming oud, tapping tabla,
breathing trill in reed pipe so pure
it can be heard through all this
human din – until one by one
the players convene and begin to braid
one rhythm into the next, salt harmony
and honey dirge, operatic scale rising
through sorrow to the pinnacle joy
that could lullaby the lost and waken you.

Atavistic Memory


In a previous life I must have been
a woodsman, for pine-scent thrills.
Or was I the hunter’s apprentice,
bowing to read the deer’s print
in dust? Cook’s helper, master
of the broom – how sweeping
soothes my mind? Silk in
my fingers takes me weeping
to my harem cell. Being beggar’s
daughter prepared me to be
consoled by one coin’s glint.
Is this why I am called to honor
everyone I meet?

Kim Stafford is emeritus professor at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon. He writes, teaches, and travels to raise the human spirit through poetry. His most recent poetry collection is As the Sky Begins to Change (Red Hen Press, 2024).