Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Favorite

This has been a favorite poem for a long time. I heard Richard Wilbur himself read it last year in Atlanta. I happened to be standing in just the right spot when he walked out of the auditorium and was first to have my book signed. He went on to tell me about his daughter's book. Like any proud father, he wanted to talk about his daughter.

I've had some time with both my girls in the last month. It is a wonderful thing to have daughters who are also friends. Though neither of them are writers, at least not at the moment, they are both great readers and wonderful young women. I'm so proud of them.

The Writer

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

--Richard Wilbur


  1. What a beautiful picture of you and your daughters! Poetry, I tell you....

  2. Thanks, Irene. They are sweethearts!