Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Your poems were never to a set agenda.

What words people marveled at

You put aside, for what others might call

Mundane, out of place, too ordinary.

All too available.

Every morning at five

You the explorer, put on

Your gray shirt, khakis, and shoes

And went in search,

Not of a poem

But the first faint call

Of a fish hook glinting dull in the mud,

A lost country on a wall where

Ants pass on the right,

Black hats with voices

That ride our thoughts.

You the explorer with the dull

Glinting hook, did not throw it away

For lack of promise.

You held fast instead and listened

To its real music,

And danced along the shore.

You became a flute-player,

Father of fish, and they

Hearing the melody

Dance onto the shore

With their fish legs after you

Twisting their fish bodies

Doing the holy wiggle.

You, the explorer, gave your

Gray shirt and khaki pant

To the lead fish – still dancing –

And walked into a high cabin

White from the sanctity

And your sister waiting

With scarves and gloves

Laughs at you because she knows

You’ve been dancing with the fish

To a melody all too forgotten.

How strange that we laugh at your explorer ways

How you go out in search of nothing

And come back complete,

With ants, fish, deer,

Black hats, white suits, a war camp,

Dead people, a lost country.

How is it that for us that come after you

Your music is old.

Must poems come from grand ideas?

We are so intellectual.

We forget sometimes the best

Lesson is the complaint of birds.

And your sister,

Waiting, steps onto the hard

Snow-covered ground

Fastens dogs to the sled

And waits for you to come out

Decked in winter gear.

Father explorer,

What will you find?

Threads in the snow reaching

Deep into our silence?

White horses dead

In front of your sled?

This morning I found your shirt

And khakis, well washed,

Hanging on the gray branch of a tree,

The hook, anchored to the front right pocket,

Still glinting dull.

— Abayomi Animashaun

Abayomi Animashaun is a Nigerian emigre whose poems have appeared in such journals as Diode, Drunkenboat, African American Review, and Southern Indiana Review. He is the winner of the 2008 Hudson prize and a recipient of a grant from the International Center for Writing and Translation. Animashaun’s poetry collection, The Giving of Pears, is available through Black Lawrence Press.

Comments on: "40. Ode to Bill Stafford" (1)

  1. Rick Nichols said:

    A nice tribute to the “but you didn’t” poet, with whose works I must become more familiar. The legacy now resides in the Nigerian emigre, among others.

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