One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
By Mary Oliver
There is a Wonderful Game
There is a game we should play,
And it goes like this:
We hold hands and look into each other’s eyes
And scan each other’s face.
Then I say,
“Now tell me a difference you see between us.”
And you might respond,
“Hafiz, your nose is ten times bigger than mine!”
Then I would say,
“Yes, my dear, almost ten times!”
But let’s keep playing.
Let’s go deeper,
For if we do,
Our spirits will embrace
Our union will be so glorious that even God
Will not be able to tell us apart.
There is a wonderful game
We should play with everyone
And it goes like this…
The Well of Grief
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface of the well of grief
turning downward through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe
will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water,
cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness
glimmering the small round coins thrown away
by those who wished for something else.
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 dike.
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.
From: The Darkness Around Us Is Deep – Selected Poems of William Stafford. Edited by Robert Bly. (1993).