A Ritual to Read to Each Other

by lizard

In our brave new world of information, we form our sense of the world from the sources we choose, and it’s today’s gluttony of choice that lends a sort of comfort to brand loyalty, whether it’s the New York Times or Fox News.

The former news source was again taken to task by Greg Mitchell with this post, but I don’t want to again reiterate why it’s not crazily conspiratorial to remain skeptical with how US mainstream media reports on the world’s most current atrocities. Instead, a poem.

This poem comes from William Stafford, and is titled A Ritual to Read to Each Other. It can be found in a few different places, but I came across it in a grouping of Stafford poems selected by Robert Bly (Harpercollins). I don’t want to cite the title of that book here, because it’s the last line of the poem I hope you read (especially you, James).


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.

  1. marcogibbo

    Thanks for the Stafford poem. What a kind, wise, and eloquent man. “if we purify the pond, the lilies die” truth has nothing to do with politics, profit, or power. I may be the only reader you have who looks to the poetry posts, so I thought I’d let you know I appreciate them. Cheers.

    • lizard19

      what is it about poetry in America? my poetry posts have always been the least viewed, least commented posts I write, not that some wordpress blog represents much about poetry in America, but I think there is some kind of national reluctance to engage with how the poetic use of language can be incredibly powerful.

      I know you know that, marcogibbo. thank you for appreciating the effort.

      • There is an audience for poetry, just as there is for classical music, presentations about birds, rocks and minerals, geology, native dance and customs, and I would be that it is now just as it has always been, small and select.

  2. Just coincidentally ran into this, A Poet’s Advice, by e. e. cummings, which you are no doubt familiar with …


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