Honoring William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

This Glosa series was written using the five stanzas of William Stafford’s poem “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.”
– A Ritual to Read to Each Other, William Stafford, 1st stanza

If I don’t know what pebbles
wreak holes in my soles; whether
fashioned from childhood, lifetimes ago
or today’s gnashing headline
cause oracular eruption, scorch the self-scape
even clog clarity with energetic spam;
such that when I beg myself reveal my self
enlightenment has no path for inner-expression;
then I can hardly condemn
if you don’t know the kind of person I am.

Though let’s be truthful, often I do
condemn you personally, in private and public
wounded and wounding through syllabled landscapes.
Vociferous pronouncements fueled by pain
marshal despair-driving pebbles
into professional antagonists bizarre.
My soles, your soul, intuit the damage
hostility pain drama and trauma of spirit
insidious destructions I visit upon your star
and I don’t know the kind of person you are.

You and I are called to an awareness;
this knowing, it must be made known.
Blind carriage of pebbles yours and mine
perceived as miniscule and rightfully pained
cannot be rolled at micro levels without ramification.
Held therein are exponentials of power yet unfurled
microscopic anti-tools leveraged at macro levels
magnify creation’s power in reverse, destruction.
Be warned within dysfunction’s legendary vortex lies curled
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world.

The question is what to do now.
The pebbles are in our shoes, gnawing our soles to bloody shreds.
Hear this: You and I are called to the wounded healer’s
knee with our massacres of self and multiverse.
Acknowledge, release the gods of rage, grief, anxiety,
real, imagined, ancient, contemporary, whether of self or polestar
intend, act, cull, excavate or integrate.
Pray, be healed and be.
For we know ideal outcomes require a creative god on the radar
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.”
– A Ritual to Read to Each Other, William Stafford, 2nd stanza

My Pragmatic Professional steps up to be heard.
What’s this I hear: mega-time focused on inner
flight, feather and bone, principles, prayer and peace?
For shame you self-involved Pussy Poetic,
there’s work to be done out there, not here.
I mean really, are you blind?
Ruminating quietly, my Poetic Potential considers
prayerful differentials, cellular and global.
My sense is, the out there and the in here, they must be aligned.
For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,

could have been honorably addressed
if my heart’s house of light were focused and bright.
My dear Pragmatic Professional, there are
mountains up ahead. We must begin it here
to avoid eternal recurrences out there.
Recurrences? Yes, the likes of which thus spake
Zarathustra. You scoff at my feeble heart’s tone, yet I know
those hills out there are alive, and right here, we lie beneath them.
What will I contribute? My lyrical tones lit from a heart full of ache
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break

because if I don’t tend my heart here, I lose the path to Overman’s Pass.
My Pragmatic Professional shifted her stance to consider
her whiteboard lettered, nay littered, in red green and blue;
human rights, militarism, democracy droned, earth and sky,
outsourced and resourced for economic short sales; those battles
outstood, demanded, and commanded, all they could.
And more. Thunderbolt struck, she felt her own heart
aching from too much light sent chasing there there and there.
My sense is, Poetic Potential continued, collectively we’ve misunderstood
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood

adulthood, even livelihood in magnified measure to address
us and them inhabiting our now-hood. Truth is, over the eons
time spent healing sole and soul’s pebbles drizzled, then dribbled.
Yet now we fight not to drown. Informational data stews and spews
emotional mega and hertz through our sole and soul’s pebbles. Remember?
The ones that gnaw us to shreds? Climate change, both inner and outer, alike.
In the face of all that is – and it is quite an all, we can’t afford you and I
to stand in battle here, because out there neither will live absent aspects of other.
Perhaps you’ll consider: How might we unite to assure chances we like
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.”
A Ritual to Read to Each Other, By William Stafford, 3rd stanza

Such passionate prose, said Pragmatic Professional. Then, not to be
out done she added, all things are considerable.
I’ll take the lead. Best plan I’m sure you’ll agree.
You may call me PragPro and I’ll call you PoPo.
Poetic Potential swallowed hard, winced for a glimpse, then nodded assent.
Excellent. Generate objectives, strategy, tactics, and timelines through email.
We need bottom line goals, resource allocation, a competitors list.
Sign here PoPo. Mock up stats, pie charts, post by close of business.
But PoPo’s eyes were hazy. She said, My dream had elephants of great scale.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,

tri-level pyramids balanced, packed and stacked on their backs. WhyPragPro,
it’s profound! But your spreadsheets show no heart-sense
just dry facts, figure’s ink blobbed to margin’s brink. Vision, no-think.
You say inner yields no-count ideologue? Sense this: Dream elephants speak
ancient futuristic dialogue. Magical synchronicities insights to investigate, not litigate.
Dreams elephant pyramids, beg explore feminine triads. Its just one insight spark.
Invest in team dreams to explore the versal connections, inner, outer, uni or multi.
Go internal! Find vision! Project external! Enough! a clipped PragPro snips.
I hear your dream-vangelical point. Perhaps elephants could be our trademark,
but if one wanders the circus won’t find the park,

nor make a mangy world all hope and changey. Don’t think your fall into
ebony’s schtick went unnoticed. Was Audacity’s hope your dream? All borne out of
vision-spit goo. Talk about load of tactics! Funders and plunders
postured and fostered, grassroots milked and bilked. Feeluckingly brilliant game!
Bank on this: Your approach invites insults, mine delivers undeniable results.
Left-brain logic fuels the pool, though I’ll agree elephants an idea not entirely faulty.
Didn’t Plutarch note Hannibal’s war elephants key to Punic’s put down?
Maybe we cost out using this inner-fluff stuff if strategic enough…?
Poetic Potential bowed her head with a sigh. Let me ache my reality.
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty

to use and abuse a natural resource, then all accountability recuse.
Whether it is water or land, human or animal, mineral or oil, me or you.
Universal truth insists payment, whether now, Eve’s then, or seven generation’s then.
All we expose, dispose and impose internal or external, it’s all part of our commons,
singular, plural, micro, macro, Earth’s core, sky, even Hannibal’s elephants left to die.
Pragmatic Professional’s face drains ashen. What do you suggest constitute our pact?
Dear PragPro, sense that you are me, I am you; together we are them, they are us
whoever, whatever, however spirit of us-n-them chooses to reveal itself to the all.
Walk with me here PragPro, neither of us can afford to believe it’s an idea abstract
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.
A Ritual to Read to Each Other, By William Stafford, 4th stanza

 

PragPro reaches her laser pointer, tappity-tapping PoPo’s hand.
Go ahead, indulge holier than thou sad-snot over my resources and your elephants,
Let’s be clear. I know you, am nothing like you, forget actually being you.
You say you want truth. Why?  To frost in poetic charm?
Martha Stewart-ing real-world’s face is a luxury only privileged poetics afford.
Go ahead.  Manipulate others with your ridiculous rose-colored sparklies.
At least I’m honest about this fact. I’m in it to win.  To win you have to fight.
You find me unlikable, but hear this:  I am authentic, something you may never be.
Poetic Potential’s inner-deer freezes still. PragPro adopts tone all nasally,
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,

that’s how you’d begin to tell me what I’ve just told you.
Poetry is doubletalk.  I only do straight talk.  Pity you don’t know how.
I suggest you figure it out, quit that hysterical whining.
Don’t like how I use your precious resources?  Then fight me for them.
Oh wait, that’s right, you’re just an impotent poetic.  Cowboy up PoPo.
You’re not wanted here. PoeticPotential sits a moment, sensing inner spirit’s hawk
dissolve into formidable lion form.   Slow grace rolls her head forward
eyes locking PragPro’s mandala’s in steely cold stare.
About this impotency you speak, let’s address it specific to your stalk,
a remote important region in all who talk;

She extends a mocking pinkyfinger slowly.  Why do you think I chose you
from phallic symbols galore in a sea filled with pillar coral?
She reaches her old feather pen, trailing tip along PragPro’s chin.
Of all those options I chose you because you inspire me and I you.
Remember what inspired feels like?  It’s been a long time, hasn’t it.
When was the last time you sank into depths of flower’s scented water?
When volcanoes appeared and receded in time with waves ebb and flow?
When did you last breathe an entire firmament, your voice roaring from Earth’s caves?
When did you finally hurl every last ounce across dehydrated plains? Let me proffer,
though we could fool each other, we should consider—

you cannot create without me.   Poetic Potential rises on giant spirit paws.
Inspiration powers explosions, tsunamis of color and form, joy and song.
It fertilizes original cells of every all thing you might never create.  That. Is. Me.
I am the feminine power of all creation.  Are you hearing me?
You’d be wise not forget:  Earth’s every element transmutes through my form.
Creation ends on suggestion this partnership’s an ill-fated lark.
Consider, you would be wise to engage me and my talents
with careful attention if future is what you desire.
I propose you think hard on what inspiration’s flint sparks
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.”
A Ritual to Read to Each Other, By William Stafford, 5th stanza

Poetic Potential’s eyes hold PragPro’s, flint and match, flame undecided.
Silence broke, breeze dancing, light suddenly warming their face.
My dears, did you start without me?  Felt oppressive air then blasts of heat!
Ah, deep breath. There, my precious two.  Pray, sit still, sip jasmine tea,
allow our heart’s beating slow. Extraordinary day, two views expressed,
truth’s non-refundable prize, these well-exposed stakes.
Well done.  Now, Stafford’s verses have served us well.  Though his pen
falters here, continued heart’s exploration on well-lit stage avoided, optioned
instead for final lecture. Agree this next line, his entire last verse an outtake?
For it is important that awake people be awake,

Let us conceive a final verse; create new word vessel, a paradigm where
all excel, a joyful dance space inviting all conversations’ flow.
Poetic Potential offers a line: First, let’s commit to have and hold awakened state.
PragPro looks away. Awakened state, a mystery phrase to my ear.
Counters: We commit to hold ourselves awake to our being’s truth;
Excellent first line, eager to see what truth between you both reaps!
Now, to address manners engaged to hold each other awake.   PragPro tenders:
noting flaws in how each executes the dance.  Poetic Potential suggests:
form internal truths from  rails of our rift;  then Stafford’s next line bleep
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;

Yes!  Commendable progress!  Now, a third line of action?  Poetic Potential
submits:  Ongoing reunions, blessed communion? PragPro proffers:
reconcile partnerships to value equality and autonomy;  Poetic Potential
smiles. Yes that covers it well. Now, our last line must finally eclipse darkness
in which Stafford’s lecture ends.   We must each agree to die to former self,
especially our self’s realm where bottom line’s value is power and money.
PragPro’s eyebrows rise sky-high.  Impossible! Entirely fantastical!
My dear sweet Praggy, I do enjoy that name’s privilege, heart breathe with me.
Pray union with us in our stanza’s last line.  New manifestations depend entirely
the signals we give—yes or no, or maybe—

paradigm lost or paradigm won. Allow vision anew endeavored here is
your true heart’s desire; though unknowns are incalculable, and path is dark.
Pray, let’s heal pebble of sole, fear of unknown, dissolve boulders that dam
collective soul’s flow. Come, join powerful thought and call forth our new paradigm.
Poetic Potential sits still, eyes closed, her slow breath cycling, willing
all heart to open, expand, and awake from its sleep, centuries long and deep.
Dear Praggy, this final line rises up.  Let it express our profound entwined desire:
to surrender into resurrection’s arms to embrace and seize its gift.
Now, reasons for new verse to light heart’s path, precarious and steep,
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

 

Hence the proposed new final verse to Stafford’s Poem:

We commit to hold ourselves awake to our being’s truth;
form internal truth from rails of our rift;
reconcile partnerships to value equality and autonomy;
surrender into resurrection’s arms to embrace and seize its gift. 

 

© Lori Fleming, 2013

An Ode to a favorite poet posted in honor of the three year anniversary of d’Verse Poets Pub.  We’re celebrating all this week!  Head on over and feed your desire for something original!

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15 thoughts on “Honoring William Stafford’s poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”

  1. brian miller

    wow…where to even start with this one…well played off stafford….the first one def resonates…the realizing of those pebbles that wear at our soles…our souls…and laying them down…your end line paired with hsi on the gods we follow home makes for a very strong closure…also like the dissolving of those boulders that bar the creative flow…tour de force verse….

    Reply
  2. Glenn Buttkus

    Homeric, saga as tribute, dense as a thrice-folded samurai blade, held lovingly in the flames until it becomes amalgam, part everything, yet something unique, all its own
    self & style, truly a long-fellow who puts his/its hooks in you and drags you along like a marlin on the deep sea line, forcing you to focus on it until your eyes glaze over, your arms ache with the powerful pull, & your heart skips on ahead of your shadow; nice behemoth of a creation.

    Reply
  3. MarinaSofia

    This is one that is going to take me time to unravel – complex, challenging yet also instantly attractive. The first part really resonated with me, but I probably need to come back and reread several times to let the meaning (and the beauty of the language) seep in.

    Reply
  4. Gay Reiser Cannon

    What a tour de force! Such mastery of language, and such deft turns. You may start with Stafford, but the poem you create is impressive, stylized, full of wordplay, insight, and philosophy. Amazing!

    Reply
  5. Brendan

    More than I can take in (peril of online reading, for sure) — I’ve written poems of this length and the daunting thing is that the volume is so pumped up I don’t think anyone but God can truly hear what’s going on, which is sad and makes of this a lonely enterprise. Every reader brings a culture to their encounter with the poem, and I think this poem is a delight for the well-read because it dances and dazzles everywhere. William Stafford, what a boy, a poem a day for life. I think for the sake of keeping an audience (small and random as we are), you need to pare something down — not the volume or manic intensity and gushing articulation (gifts all your are richly endowed with), but so much depth added to breadth will leave people behind. I was entranced with the first section, and thought the last stanza an incredible benediction (and warning) for the poet’s vocation:

    Acknowledge, release the gods of rage, grief, anxiety,
    real, imagined, ancient, contemporary, whether of self or polestar
    intend, act, cull, excavate or integrate.
    Pray, be healed and be.
    For we know ideal outcomes require a creative god on the radar
    and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

    Maybe this is a conversation with your god(s) we are invited to listen in with.

    And maybe spoken-word video better helps accommodate an audience (they don’t have to be reader), though I don’t think there’s enough bandwidth to accommodate all of its twists and turns of thinking here. I’m not suggesting you change anything essential, just know from my own verbose experience that it may have to suffice that your most loyal audience will be whatever Voice you’re responding to. All of poetry for me is that conversation. (At lest, I hope it is, and not just a false read on the radar.) Keep up the great work.

    Reply
    1. Bridge2vision

      Goodness Brendan, you are a reader of the Olympic medal variety. You are a brave one to hazard a dive into a feedback loop on what I think of as the word equivalent of a pie-eating contest. (Even for me, after reading this one I crave a lay down where I can stretch out and take a nap.)

      As to your insights shared: Thank you and I hear you! This was the first poem I ever wrote. Pretty much everything in me was BEGGING some kind of form and boundary. In fact, I had opted to just avoid writing what others might read because my pen had no valve mechanism. Every time I picked it up, the flow opened so wide the Earth-living audience was doomed to drown!

      That said, this poem healed a profound conflict within my self back when I wrote it – and created me into a poet. (A verboise one indeed, but still, something I had no idea resided in me.) I am happy to report for anyone attempting to read what comes out of me these days, many of the more recent results do fit in the 200-500 word category! Your comment did nail one thing on the micro-head, I write for the audience of voice gods, the ones that don’t even have a computer to access a blog. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Brendan

        Sorry that I hadn’t read your stuff more widely before venturing some of my comments. If this is a first effort at poetry, then you have a fine career ahead. I’ll try to catch up some along the way. (Got my own gods to sing to.)

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