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?

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.

A Valley Like This, by William Stafford

Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this,
and suddenly the air is filled with snow.
That is the way the whole world happened—
there was nothing, and then…

But maybe some time you will look out and even
the mountains are gone, the world become nothing
again. What can a person do to help
bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully
save it, like a bubble that can disappear
if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.
Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is.