Sunday, November 7, 2010

"What The River Says, That Is What I Say"

Continuing with the theme of rivers, here is a lovely poem by William Stafford.  For me, at least, it is one of those poems that you memorize automatically after reading it a few times.

                           Ask Me

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.

William Stafford, Stories That Could Be True (1977).

                                                 Stanley Roy Badmin
                                 "Skating on Oakwood Pond" (c. 1960)

4 comments:

William A. Sigler said...

This is why I have you on my blogroll.

William Stafford is one of my absolute favorites. Reading him, I feel somewhat embarrassed for every other poet out there, including myself. He's just at a different level -- mentally, spiritually and stylistically.

This one -- like his 30,000 other poems -- takes you right up the horror of being, without any of the usual overstatement when poets go to that place, and convinces you to smile, because it's perfect just like it is, without seeming to say anything you wouldn't hear, say, at the nearest convenience store.

And I love the picture! Captures the style and feel quite nicely.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you very much for the kind words, Mr. Sigler.

I cannot say that I know Mr. Stafford's corpus of poetry well, given its size. Your jest about his "30,000 other poems" is, less one zero, on target: according to a note by his son in "The Way It Is", the poems in the collection were selected from "some three thousand poems" that were published by Stafford! In any event, "Ask Me" has always stuck in my head.

Thank you again.

David DJ Shockley said...

I love the picture. I remember it from my youth. when I was able to instantly transport myself into another world by reading books. I used the people in the picture as the characters I would read about.

and yeah stafford rocks!

Stephen Pentz said...

David DJ Shockley: thank you very much for visiting, and for your thoughts. It is an evocative painting, isn't it? I feel like walking into it as well.

Thanks again.