We would climb the highest dune,
from there to gaze and come down:
the ocean was performing;
we contributed our climb.
Waves leapfrogged and came
straight out of the storm.
What should our gaze mean?
Kit waited for me to decide.
Standing on such a hill,
what would you tell your child?
That was an absolute vista.
Those waves raced far, and cold.
“How far could you swim, Daddy,
in such a storm?”
“As far as was needed,” I said,
and as I talked, I swam.
From Allegiances (1970), by William Stafford
9 Comments Add yours
I am interested in your interpretation of the poem. Could the father have been talking about the storms of life and he was “swimming” in his mind or thinking of all the possibilities that may come ahead?
Hi Jerry, thank you for thinking with me on this!
I see an enormous trust in this poem. I see a daughter who is still young enough to believe in her fathers invincibility.
I see a father who will go all the way for his kid – even if he knows it will be challenging, maybe even impossible.
I see love.
What do you see?
This post reminds of summer writing conferences in the wilds of Wyoming (in the Rocky Mountain US) in the early to mid 1980s. It was a start up conference then, and William Stafford attended many of those early years of the conference. I believe the conference is still in existence. I have always enjoyed his poems, and remember his warm and witty presence. Thanks for reminding me, Sigrun.
I have only gotten to know him this last year – this poem I first heard read by Jack Kornfield
I agree with Jerry’s interpretation, and with yours, Sigrun. I think it’s about unconditional love, trust; also the storms ahead. At the same time, the father is already “swimming” – it has begun.
swimming = no firm grounding = danger…?
not necessarily danger, rather, the need to be in motion in order to stay afloat…but that’s just me! 😉
Lovely – I see love too! This poem really resonates with me: My daughter is seven. It is a special age. We spend a lot of time looking out at the rough waters that surround our cottage. No words can really convey the experience. But this poem really captures the feeling.
Yes, agree, he captures something very real and true, something recognizable behind words.