Monday, August 24, 2009


(though you have written poems for me)
I have been thinking for a few days now
my child, I have never written a poem for you,
but-my God! what worlds beyond words
I want to say to you!
How does one say such knowing
without stirring old fears
sprung from the deep
and disguised
in angry colored cloaks and dark cowls?
Awesome shapes towering over innocence
only two feet high, and crowned with sungold.

How can I convey to you some wisdom
for dealing with a world of fierce faces
and bony hands...the fat bellies which mock
and laugh when you are hungry? Mechanical
monsters which in their shiny surfaces
reflect back to you...only surfaces...

Wwhat consummate thievery!
There are monstrous and vacuous and false Merlins
who simply deconjure the human soul...
We are left to endure phantom pains and empty noise.

Then, there is the other world, which can be,
can be, only if we can learn to be, or bear to be,
Merlins ourselves and create forms which truly sing.
So how can you--slender little one--
balance on the fine line between,
allow the dual play, and still grow
with verve and grace and understanding?
Dare I believe that some new Merlin
works a final magic with love's alchemy,
transmuting base offerings, and...moment
by moment...fills the inward coffer?
For this you must find your own teacher,
and how then dare I help you choose?
(my heart suspends its beating here and listens)

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Given the seasons,
we eat the yellow squash
of summer
and spit the seeds into warm soil
of autumn
New Moon Earth Mother
and keeper of all unsorted seeds,
Oh! protect the best of these
from the cutting knife,
reasoning beyond depth,
death, and all dark wisdom,
Keeper of curling green wands
lifting now to light.
Earth Egg Number Eleven.

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Monday, August 17, 2009


In this morning's garden
a most lavish butterfly
of velvet brown and corn yellow,
a messenger, perhaps
from your spirit winging ahead,
too eager for droning engines.
Now, here on the ground,
I feel that butterfly in my heart
fluttering to greet you--
what if the green hills and blue flowers
are not enough for such an event?
Across miles and miles of sky and field
laced with silver water ribbons...
Ah! the world comes on butterfly wings!
Grand daughter, how wonderful you are.

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Sunday, August 16, 2009



Through long winters
my feet have traced a new path
through unpatterned shadows
from ice-laden limbs of bare trees.
Bare trees cannot shelter
...even sparrows...
yet they do offer themselves
as cold crystal prisms
as pale sun warms the waiting
for some sound of spring.
There! Yellow chalice-faces,
green-stemmed hope--
daffodils breaking through--

--Barbara Smith Stoff
(written many years ago as I sat in a library
reading Wordsworth's poem)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Old woman, forgive me for watching you
from this high hotel window facing north
(through historic palms growing
straight up out of concrete--
it takes a long time to grow that tall) I see
early mornings you come out to hang up the wash,
white and pink sheets, red shirts, dark socks,
a little girl's dress...I notice you limp a little,
and I imagine the joints are large, as your fingers
work with old weathered wood of clothes pins.
I see your son come out each morning too,
he waters the corn growing at the back of the yard,
a little green garden, secret behind high brick walls...
the corn has sprung out tassels this week.

I take my briefcase and hit the road
on behalf of the State Board of Education,
and come back to the window late in the day.
Sun and wind slant into the palms
and on to the green plants in your kitchen window,
birds settle in for the night, a whole chittering colony,
invisible under the laurel leaves...
Your son comes out to check his corn and feed his dog
beside a child's red wagon...the washing is gone now,
gone on to whoever needs fresh clothes for tomorrow.
I look (do you feel my intrusion?) as I pick up my pen
to write, and I wonder which among us has found wisdom.
--Barbara Smith Stoff

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The morning glory has gained
the very tip of the pine tree
and I contemplate a perfect stairway
of green hearts lying full open
in the sun's exuberance,
transmuting to royal magenta
the summer's joy in fullness.

--Barbara Smith Stoff

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Sunday Times Museum of Fine Art

I see too,
remembering Auden's Icarus,
that when it comes to suffering
they are seldom wrong
these reporters and their cameras,
the way they catch tragedy on the human face,
and yet sometimes they fix for us
in their instants and afterimages
...something achingly beautiful, incandescent...
so human, so human rising up.

Take this picture of Redgrave for example.
I have kept it here on my desk,
for weeks now, have studied her expression...
hand gesturing for some ideal, tender,
perhaps clear only to her.
I have met those eyes, the lips
pursed to appeal from her side.
I know little of sides and batles,
but I know that face.

--Barbara Smith Stoff