Malheur Before Dawn

Malheur before Dawn

William Stafford

 

An owl sound wandered along the road with me.

I didn’t hear it–I breathed it into my ears.

Little ones at first, the stars retired, leaving

polished little circles on the sky for awhile.

Then the sun began to shout from below the horizon.

Throngs of birds campaigned, their music a tent of sound.

From across a pond, out of the mist,

one drake made a V and said its name.

Some vast animal of air began to rouse

from the reeds and lean outward.

Frogs discovered their national anthem again.

I didn’t know a ditch could hold so much joy.

So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid.

Some day like this might save the world.

 

At a time like this in this troubled world, my senses are attuned to what might make me remember that life is good, that there is beauty to be found everywhere in counterpoint to the horrors.

This is such a poem, one that recalls the small details of sound, in particular, that we might otherwise miss as we listen to the news, speak of it among ourselves, our ears blunted by the awfulness of it all.

I invite you, reading this, to speak it aloud to yourself or to someone else should they be so fortunate. Hear the cadence of the words, the owl’s soft hoot, the birds’ tent of music, the frogs belting out their anthem. See the morning stars fading, the sun making its daily entrance, the V of geese.

It is the last lines that catch in my throat and give me a sense of peace: I didn’t know a ditch could hold so much joy./ So magic a time it was that I was both brave and afraid./ Some day like this might save the world.

I can forget how much joy, how much magic is all around me, until I open my senses. And yes, these are the things that might well save the world if we but let them.

 

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