A Few Snorts from a Wild One, by William Stafford

Life sleeps in this tired old horse, but might
wake yet for a spur or a fire when the muscles
come alive, till even the main gate creaks
as a shoulder hits it and makes the whole corral
shudder its rails while the weakest post
almost gives way. Some time it will, maybe
tomorrow, and then you’ll see: I guarantee you
the road out of here will be filled with a horse.


Ask Me, by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

You Reading This, Be Ready, by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

I Want to Write Something So Simply, by Mary Oliver

I want to write something
so simply
about love
or about pain
that even
as you are reading
you feel it
and as you read
you keep feeling it
and though it be my story
it will be common,
though it be singular
it will be known to you
so that by the end
you will think—
no, you will realize—
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.

Mysteries, Yes, by Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
   to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
   mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
   in allegiance with gravity
      while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
   never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
   scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
   who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
   “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
   and bow their heads.

How It Can Be, by William Stafford

People can drift farther apart. They can
move away and try never to be heard from.
The colors they wore will gradually relate
to other people. Places will change after
a time and there will be fewer and fewer reminders.
It will be different. Snow will cover old paths.

Woodsmoke will continue to tell its old stories,
and I’m sorry about that, but when autumn comes
we can travel wherever we want and either
work or move on, even across the ocean,
and not pay any attention to the stars
or to certain songs if we hear them.

Sometimes a dog like our old one will run by;
roosters will crow like those every morning for so long,
but—you know— it will change. New trees
will grow. Beacons on high places everywhere
in the world will go on blinking over and over.