National Writing Project

Jim Gray

By: Kim Stafford
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 11, No. 1
Date: 2006

Summary: This poem by Kim Stafford pictures the intensity, gruffness, and generosity of Jim Gray.


Gruff as gravel, two weeks gone but laughing blue in a smoky haze,
slap me on the back blunt battleship turning on a dime Jim Gray,
you'd say, "You're a teacher—you do important work." (Truant you

followed the missing home to drafty dives with blankets hung to give us
privacy.) Jim Gray, today I see your lower teeth when you look
down and wait for your thunderbolt to hit me: "You're a teacher—

get busy where you are!" With a whim of iron, cut no slack, you
glint and ricochet from teacher to teacher to teacher. Jim Gray, I
say delve into our souls, boom in our ears: "You're teachers—get with

other teachers in your area and see what happens." Dense
blithe ghost, Jim Gray, dismay us—unsatisfied we have not
become you yet in ten thousand spirited forms, myriad selves

unique, collective, gruff with joy: "You're a teacher—so do what you
do with others." In my dim classroom, end of day, my stupor deep
from endless work but lucky I believe, accompanied by your blue

sturdy unrelenting presence—Jim Gray, I pray you never leave.

About the Author Kim Stafford is the director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis and Clark College.

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