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Waking At 3 A.M.

Wednesday, 17 January, 2018

The American poet William Stafford was born on this day in 1913 in Hutchinson, Kansas, and he died at his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon on 28 August 1993, having written a poem that morning containing the lines, “‘You don’t have to / prove anything,’ my mother said. ‘Just be ready / for what God sends.'”

Stafford’s poetry career is remarkable in that he was 46 years old when his first major collection, Traveling Through the Dark, appeared. It went on to win the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry. Stafford is said to have written a daily journal for 50 years, and he composed nearly 22,000 poems, of which some 3,000 were published. For all those who have trouble sleeping, this offers comfort.

Waking At 3 A.M.

Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter — even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

William Stafford


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