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Kim Stafford: Poems for a Cause

Poems for a Cause

What’s your calling? What’s your cause?
If it’s justice, then pen a few just words
into a chant or song that can call us all
upright to witness and to testify.

If you believe education is the key,
then compose a winsome proclamation
for a child to recite, standing small
but tall in the hall of power.

If it’s Earth that tugs your heart,
or immigrant children who haunt
your dreams, or people by bad luck
cast out to camp under the overpass,

then find a way to sing your sorrows
into remedy, your hurt into help, syllables
to gather others, so words can guide our work, 
and your pain be our refrain for change.


So Still

They took Eric for a cigarette. They took George 
for a twenty dollar bill. Breonna is gone ’cause they 
didn’t like her door. Who will be the next to lie so still?
They took Ahmed for running. They took Laquan because 
he walked away. They took Trayvon ’cause he was lookin’ ’round.
Wrong time, wrong place, is all they say.

They took Emmett for a whistle. They took Medgar 
for a word. They took Martin ’cause they didn’t like his dream. 
Again, they said, it’s time that dream’s deferred.

So still, so still, did they kill you for a thrill? So still, in your casket, 
          so silent, and so chill. They took away your laughter, 
let us keep our tears. They took you in your troubles, in your 
tender years. They took you for your color, that’s how it appears.
And when will we decide true justice to fulfill, before we
          let another lie so still?


Rainy Day in the 40s

When my parents were in love and poor
just after the war, a hungry Sunday on the street 
in San Francisco they trod the pavement feeling glum. 
Where Telegraph Hill came down they heard a sound, 
looked up to see no one but an apple gleaming red, 
rolling down the road into my father’s hand, and 
with his knife, divided, it  became the gritty sacrament 
they taught us: bounty in small will be enough to fill 
your hand or cup when your own hard times come.
So be of good heart, hold on, look up.


Words of Sugar, Words of Salt

Don’t these times call for cayenne—
a taste to seize the mind in thrall?
What recipe can bring rogue judges
to their senses, bolster timid politicians,
feed the fat cats truth enough to cut
their purr? See that smoke curling
from the cook-off—forests on fire,
floods full, heat waves roasting us alive?
Maybe we’re past hints and whispers,
our chance gone for subtle scents
and fugitive flavors—time for coffee
black, jolt of onion, garlic unadorned.


What’s Not in the News

    People use their eyes not to see
    beauty, but to avoid danger.

	        —Joel Meyerowitz

Sunrise doesn’t make front page.
What stringer quotes my mother’s ghost?
Who shall report a child’s opinion?
A vagabond’s obituary? An inmate’s
joke in the funny pages?

Instead, the roving eye of the news
swivels toward trouble, tragedy, 
the work of big money and mean souls:
tell the tough, but hide the tender…
spotlight death, leave birth in shadow.

And of what of peace, joy, devotion?
That’s up to us.


The Moth Vote

No more streetlights! (Let them all go dark).
We will have the moon. The minnow vote: 
No more herons! We will glitter free.
Rivers agree: Go around the opposition.
Butterflies in solidarity: Don’t pin us down. 
Skunk’s campaign slogan: It makes scents.
The race for top turtle got off to a slow start: 
Easy does it. In the possum campaign, scandal 
got no traction: We all sleep around. Nail-biter?
Cliff-hanger, dead-heat, re-count run-off? 
That’s the law of tooth and claw. But in 
the end, mud won by a landslide.

Copyright 2023 Kim Stafford.

Kim Stafford’s many books include Singer Come from Afar (Red Hen Press, 2021). From 2018-2020, he served as the Oregon’s Poet Laureate.

Kim Stafford

10 comments on “Kim Stafford: Poems for a Cause

  1. Rose Mary Boehm
    April 26, 2023

    A delight. I especially ‘vote’ for SO STILL and THE MOTH VOICE.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    April 26, 2023

    Just had to click on the title and then it worked. Love these! Is there such a thing as blue humor? I’ve always been a fan of black humor, but there is a captured sadness in his poetry that fills me with tears but keeps me from drowning.


  3. laureanne2013
    April 26, 2023

    What a delight, those little gems!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amrita Skye Blaine
    April 26, 2023

    the email was empty! Only the title promising Kim Stafford, one of my favorites. Please repost! thank you, Amrita


  5. rknester
    April 26, 2023

    There’s no post.


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