Saturday, April 12, 2008
"Ask Me" A William Stafford Poem
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.
Questions as Contemplation, Response, Prayer:
What lives below seemingly frozen surfaces?
What are my mistakes? Yours?
How do we measure or assess our lives?
How have I loved?
How have I hated?
What have the consequences been?
What stillness shapes or inspires action?
I wonder what the river might have spoken to Archbishop Desmond Tutu? Or Ghandi? Mother Theresa or Martin?
What might the river speak to my students at Minneapolis North High?
What does the river say to you?
What does your life say back?
This poem has re-appeared in my life. I first came across it a couple summers ago, before my journey west to Idaho write. I was appreciative then of the way it spoke to me, as well as what was conveyed simply in the sharing of it with a friend.
I'm inspired to post it here, following the experience of it re-emerging and again, inspiring a kind of soulful exchange with friends. Thank you to Parker J. Palmer, and his book "Let Your Life Speak: Listening to the Voice of Vocation" - where I found this reprinted and anchoring the text. Thank you to Maryann Pearson for sending me that book. Thank you to Becca Barniskis for ever cracking open Stafford's poems with me. Thank you to Joy Chaney, for liking this poem and being my teacher. Thank you to God for Rivers and Poets and Love.