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By Frank Stanford

There are many people who come back

After the doctor has smoothed the sheet

Around their body

And left the room to make his call.


They die but they live.


They are called the dead who lived through their deaths,

And among my people

They are considered wise and honest.


They float out of their bodies

And light on the ceiling like a moth,

Watching the efforts of everyone around them.


The voices and the images of the living

Fade away.


A roar sucks them under

The wheels of a darkness without pain.

Off in the distance

There is someone

Like a signalman swinging a lantern.


The light grows, a white flower.

It becomes very intense, like music.


They see the faces of those they loved,

The truly dead who speak kindly.


They see their father sitting in a field.

The harvest is over and his cane chair is mended.

There is a towel around his neck,

The odor of bay rum.

Then they see their mother

Standing behind him with a pair of shears.

The wind is blowing.

She is cutting his hair.


The dead have told these stories

To the living.


Frank Stanford, "The Light the Dead See" from The Light the Dead See: Selected Poems of Frank Stanford. Copyright © 1991 by Frank Stanford.  Reprinted by permission of Ginny Stanford. 

Source: The Light the Dead See: Selected Poems of Frank Stanford (University of Arkansas Press, 1991)

  • Living
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Frank Stanford
Frank Stanford was a prolific poet known for his originality and ingenuity. He has been dubbed “a swamprat Rimbaud” by Lorenzo Thomas and “one of the great voices of death” by Franz Wright. He grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, and then Arkansas, where he lived for most of his life and wrote many of his most powerful poems. He attended the University of Arkansas from 1967-9 and studied engineering while continuing to write poetry. See More By This Poet

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