by  William E. Stafford (1914-1993)

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.

More information on William Stafford


From The Way It Is: New and Selected poems (Graywolf Press 1998)


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Written on 2016-03-29 at 22:57

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ken d williams The PoetBay support member heart!
This reminds me , of The The Ritual , of me and my sisters youngest son. After school - we would read a chapter of a book. A page each. The book was one of a little know book by Jack London. Each chapter told a connecting story. At the end of each chapter , I'd ask my sisters lad , what he thought. After one such reading , Nigel - became very thoughtful. Then he exploded! He was not happy at all at the way they treted a woman. Who did all the hard work , prospekting fore gold in the Clondike. Her husband m went to town m to take ALL the cedit! She dell in l;ove wioth a man , who gaveher her rspeckt! Pland eo elope with hi, the chritrs , on the fae of fine , good mem , one a jesuet prest , reminded her of her vows. She , gave way , went back to her husband! Nigel , was not emprest by the " hearos "!
The poem hear , reminds me of that Ritual. :)

one trick pony The PoetBay support member heart!
Poetically, this reminds me of how far my story-poems are from this, of what subtler writing can be, though not necessarily should be.

I absolutely loved this, just what I needed,thank you for posting. It's the final stanza that resonates with me.