William Stafford Playlist

Sometime after midnight last night I posted here an old favorite poem by William Stafford. Since I started in earnest with new readings on my YouTube channel in January, I have been developing a William Stafford Playlist which you can be find by clicking on this sentence. Have a look, take a listen, and perhaps you will enjoy it at least half as much as I have enjoyed the work of creating it. He’s one of my heroes.

The following is a particularly striking poem of Stafford’s, visually blended with paintings by my good friend Michael McFarland. Check out his work at mcfarlandart.com. To me, the spirit of them just seemed to belong hand in hand with the poem. 

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider—
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

    –William Stafford

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