A Ritual to Read to Each Other, by William Stafford

Poems for Stuart, Part 3

West Branch of the Susquehanna River near Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, Isle of QueueI mentioned in the previous two parts of this series that my dear friend Stuart came to America this summer to visit with his son. What a blessing to me that on the way to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water,” they took the time to divert slightly north and meet me at a restaurant in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. There we had a lovely time over food and drink in an outdoor cafe on the sidewalk. It wasn’t part of the original plan to meet at a restaurant where I once worked, but such are the serendipities of life.

After dinner, we went to the river to fulfill a small side-goal of the visit. Stu had asked if during our time together this day, he could record me reading a poem that was meaningful to this period of my life, and so I came “prepared.” As it’s difficult for me to choose a favorite among the many poems that have spoken to me of late , I came with several possibilities in mind. Finally, I decided on this one.

I also wanted the place to be appropriate. So the sounds of the waves, the wind, and the children getting out of their kayaks in the background were truly lovely accompaniments to the piece, but we had some difficulty with static in the video, which grows in intensity throughout the clip. For now, here is a studio version of my reading (unfortunately devoid of the ambiance of waves, wind, and children) along with a snapshot from the video. This is me reading on an upturned boat by my home river, the Susquehanna on the nearby Isle of Que. I was born north, upriver from this spot in the town of Lock Haven, along the West Branch of this great waterway.

If eventually, we are able to decrease the static somehow, we’ll share the video here on the blog in a future post. In the meantime, let me thank you, Stuart, for blessing my life with your friendship. For me, our meeting was somehow both miraculous and inevitable, as if it was not at all the first time we sat down to eat together. You are a force of good in this world, a loving and beautiful soul  and I am honored to be called your friend.

The text of Stafford’s poem: “A Ritual to Read to Each Other.”

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Dean Powers says:

    One of the best ever last lines of a poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on let's talk! and commented:
    As it is summer, and many of us are still finding time for relaxation – in the sun at last perhaps – we thought we would post another poem by William Stafford, again read by David J Beauman. It is a terrific piece, called ‘A Ritual to Read to Each Other’ and on reading it you may find it hard to fathom the meaning at first. Perhaps the only meaning is the one it has for you anyway.

    However, when it comes to working at relationships – and couples counselling is something we believe we excel at here at The Terrace – those last two lines seem particularly apposite:

    the signals we give–yes or no, or maybe–
    should be clear: the darkness around us is deep

    Is it about knowing ourselves, and then we can better know others? Or perhaps it is about making sure you should be clear in your messages to others, to ensure you get to know the real other, and they know the real you….?

    What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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