Poetry

I am reminded today of the significance of poetry.  Garrison Keillor puts it well: What “makes all good poems matter is that they offer a truer account than what we’re used to getting.”  Which pointed me to William Stafford’s 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.

While there is, of course, a tendency to focus on our own role, our own lines, Stafford’s poem offers a good reminder of the ensemble cast in this production: me, you, others.  It’s always good to know who the players are. 

And Stafford’s poem is too good to not include in its entirety:

A Ritual to Read to Each Other

William E. Stafford

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 dyke.

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.

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