For The Toad by the Kitchen Step, 4 a.m. at the Craft School

Mar 2, 2018

Today’s poem is “For the Toad by the Kitchen Step, 4 a.m. at the Craft School” by Kim Stafford. Kim is a writer in Oregon who wanders and teaches far and wide--in Alaska, Italy, Scotland, and Bhutan. He is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, and author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft.

For several summers he has taught on Deer Isle in Maine, at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. He says “I felt like a feral child set loose again in the wonders of the world. Each morning there, I would rise early to haunt the shoreline and tramp through the spruce wood. One morning I was padding along through the dark with my headlamp at 4a.m., and the beam of light caught a toad by the kitchen step. It was raining lightly, and an iridescent halo surrounded the creature hunched in Buddha pose. Suddenly, all the advantages of being human seemed peripheral to the essence of life testified by the toad's indigenous expression of well-being. “

For the Toad by the Kitchen Step,
4 a.m at the Craft School

by Kim Stafford

Rain has come and life is grand!
Everywhere in the dark forest,
in moss along my favorite path, and in
my den in duff a hum of well-being!

Listen! Hear the tramp of the busy humans?
Percussive steps on the bedrock, on the wood
stair, and earth! All that resonant thrum
of tinkering, as they chatter and blur.

How they long to make a jewel like me!
My pearled belly, magnificent articulation
of my toes, and the glory of my pebbled back
in colors subtle beyond imagining!

These humans, towering intent
on fashioning their poor equivalent
of what a tree does, simply standing up,
or rain falling to perfectly dimple the sea,

or a toad content in Buddha pose. They’ll
make me die with laughing, where I’m
                             chanting every night.

Poem copyright © 2017 Kim Stafford.
Reprinted from Earth Verse, Little Infinities, 2017 
by permission of Kim Stafford.