there is something wrong about the grass

A Message from the Wanderer

By William Stafford

Today outside your prison I stand

and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;

you have relatives outside. And there are

thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago I bent my skill to keep my

cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,

and shouted my plans to jailers;

but always new plans occurred to me,

or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,

or some stupid jailer would forget

and leave the keys.

Inside, I dreamed of constellations—

those feeding creatures outlined by stars,

their skeletons a darkness between jewels,

heroes that exist only where they are not.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,

just as—often, in light, on the open hills—

you can pass an antelope and not know

and look back, and then—even before you see—

there is something wrong about the grass.

And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Now—these few more words, and then I’m

gone: Tell everyone just to remember

their names, and remind others, later, when we

find each other. Tell the little ones

to cry and then go to sleep, curled up

where they can. And if any of us get lost,

if any of us cannot come all the way—

remember: there will come a time when

all we have said and all we have hoped

will be all right.

There will be that form in the grass.

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