Here he is, addressing one Leonard Gregg, arsonist, whose action destroyed the beloved Show Low, Arizona landscape where he lived:
Leonard, Tuesday morning you tossed a matchbehind Cibecue's rodeo ring to stashsome firefighting cash in your pocket.That's what they say.
Does he want "to hang you like a pinata and thump you with a ball bat"? Yes, he does. But "I'm too sad to punish you, Leonard./Exhausted I sink to my knees,/sobbing on this blackened ground." But Bill's compassion wants his nemesis only to
Serve until sap rises in your heart,until growth rings root you into these mountainsand sink you into the canyons all around,until you rise into beauty in this place.
See what I mean? Here's a man who is unafraid to look into his heart and tell the truth about what he finds there, and has the language to do it with precision and tenderness. He speaks to us of the process of aging and the prospect of death. He speaks of love lost, and love found. Who could better synthesize the meaning of "Persist," a book that took me decades to write than Bill does, in these simple words?
Poetry has been a tough sell.I'm tired, the pencil dulls in my hand.I've sluffed off lofty aspirationsTo cram shelves with my publications.I'm too old to chase fameYet too deeply dug into words to quit.
Or this, "Doors"...
He who opens a doorAnd he who closes itAre not the same man.The weight of shadows slidesDown a long corridor,Shouldering againstDoors I've openedDoors I thought I'd closed,And those somehow left ajar.How do I return homeWhen all the doors lean away?
Beautifully written, so rich with meaning, and economical with words. What Bill does so well is document the journey of his heart. Hence his title, "Cairns Along the Road." His poems, precisely, are cairns, stones stacked with love one atop the other, markers on those points of passage where meaning seems to flood in on us in moments of epiphany. They remind us to stop along our own roads, look around, observe what's happening around us and how it responds to what's happening within.
Here's the sad thing: I can't even tell you how to buy this book. The Heron Hill Press, it seems, has no website. Perhaps, reading these words, Bill will feel moved to write and let me know how you can lay your hands on one, in which case, I'll pass the information on.