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 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.

by William Stafford

Comments (11)

the auditory version of this poem is abysmal. it lacks all depth feeling and if it is a person she should be banned and if a computer just drop the idea. it is ridiculous and abhorrent.
Deep, meaningful and open-hearted. How important (and rare) it is to say what we mean.
Just discovered this gem a couple of days ago and am memorizing it. I hope there is something being done to honour the 100th anniversary of this amazing man's birth (January 17,1914) coming up 2 weeks from now. This has to be one of the most profound poems of our era. As I am memorizing it the more I feel in it. With awe and gratitude for prophets who are awake in our world.
I used to know this poem by heart, then lost it for many years. Now re-found; happy.
I like to punch people named Nick in the face.
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