Monday, November 9, 2009


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.

This poem can be found in Even in Quiet Places (Confluence Press 1996). It's a plain-spoken collection of intimate and thoughtful poems. Stafford also had a way of saying something serious in a playful way. In a piece he called "Sayings for a Dedication Page," William Stafford wrote this about rivers.

What the river wrote we can read:
"Build on high ground."