“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William 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.

 

“A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems © Graywolf Press.

 

(With a grateful nod to long-time reader “Strumsky” who has mentioned this as a favorite poem in comments past; I didn’t forget. ❤  A poignant poem for a world that seems to be “lost in the dark.” One of my favorites. ~Christy)

 

9 thoughts on ““A Ritual to Read to Each Other” by William Stafford

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Brian. The television and its blaring news is much like staring into Nietzsche’s abyss. We need to look away from time to time, toward the light. Not that I condone ignorance, but like Mish said below, sometimes we must recharge so that we can best help in meaningful ways. Our souls need respite too.

      Sent from my iPhone

      >

      Liked by 1 person

  1. mishedup

    For it is important that awake people be awake,
    or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;

    love those lines.
    By turning away we are at risk of going back to sleep….
    what is meaningful in each moment changes.
    Respite is good, then back to the meaningful work.
    Stay woke

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for remembering, for giving this poem as light once again, too. And thanks for keeping hold of a tail, for making this a community parade so we even can make our way forward, can make our way awake.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s truly my pleasure. I get much more than I give, that’s for sure. I’m grateful to be a messenger, an occasional candle in this deep darkness around us. Having tails to hold, helps me stay the course, too.

      Thanks for the comment, always a treat to hear from you.

      Liked by 1 person

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