Posts Tagged ‘a time of freedom’

This simple poem—Once in the 40’s by William Stafford—might quietly surprise you at the end

January 6, 2023

The more I read this poem—Once in the 40’s by William Stafford—the more I love it. It may seem simple, but it quietly surprised me at the end. I subscribe to the Academy of American Poets newsletter and it appeared in a list of poets whose birthdays are in January. Stafford’s is the 17th.

Once in the 40’s
We were alone one night on a long
road in Montana. This was in winter, a big
night, far to the stars. We had hitched,
my wife and I, and left our ride at
a crossing to go on. Tired and cold—but
brave—we trudged along. This, we said,
was our life, watched over, allowed to go
where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time
when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find
a night like this, whatever we had to give,
and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

—William Stafford (1914-1993) 

From The Way It Is by William Stafford. Copyright © 1982, 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Shared via Poets.org. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Bill had married Dorothy Hope Franz in 1944. He must have been 30 at the time, and she 28. Although, Dorothy’s obituary (1916-2013) says they married in 1943. In any case, this poem recalls an event that must’ve taken place once in the 40’s, in the early years of their marriage when they were very much in love and carefree, before they settled down to raise a family. The nostalgia factor makes a lot of sense. It’s relatable.

It also reminds me of being surprised with a nostalgic feeling when reading the last line in Mary Oliver’s poem, Coming Home.

Enjoy more wonderful poems by William Stafford posted here.


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