Do you ever read a poem that just absolutely blows you away and you want to yawp about it barbarically on the rooftops of the world but then wonder, hmmmm, did everyone else read this poem when they were, like, two years old and they’re all, ‘Oh please, Jules. I can recite that’? Well, that may be the case today, but this poem is new to me.
It’s called “You Reading This, Be Ready” by American poet William Stafford, pictured here. I have author John E. Simpson to thank for it (this blogger, who goes by “JES”), who apparently frequents Haven Kimmel’s blog, as Eisha and I do. Over at her blog—where my oh my she likes to ask The Big Questions on a regular basis—she asks this week, how are we to live? She shares “the walls of the house” she lives in and then asks her dedicated readers, how are you to live? John’s response was to share this poem, and I saw it there, since I read the comments at Haven’s blog about as devotedly as I read her posts. And I just about passed right the hell out, wondering where—and I mean OH WHERE?!!!—have these words been all my life? I had never seen before this brilliant, little prayer of a poem.
And it’s just what I needed this week, too. It’s not my style to wax all deeply personal online—and I am aware the huge risk I run of sounding insufferably WHINEY here—but suffice it to say I was in a bit of a funk this week, as I’m trying to readjust to new schedules, more time at work, less time for the way I used to do things, not as much time as I want for reading, chasing after young children (they bring great joy but also great noise) — getting really weary, in general, of feeling like I’m rushing, skimming the surface of everything (how DO those of you who read lots of blogs do it? I got so tired of just skimming everyone’s fabulous, thoughtful posts—skimming them being all I seemed to have time for—that I just gave up blog-reading altogether for a bit there), wishing that I could devote myself to one thing—just one thing—deeply. I know how fussy I must sound, and I know that many people suffer from this kind of trying-to-keep-up-with-everything ennui. I loathe being so Twenty-First-Century about it all; I didn’t think I was a mad multi-tasker. All of that—plus hearing much worse things, such as about friends and family being ill—led me to question this week, very simply, why I do everything I do — and wonder, What am I missing? What am I supposed to be paying attention to? ERGH. And, well, waiting for time to show me some better thoughts, I suppose.
Yeah, one of those weeks. Does any of all that even make sense? So then John shares this poem, something he probably did casually, effortlessly, and little did he realize, I wonder, that miles and miles away a reader like me was knocked over by it, slapped upside the head by its deep, deep wisdoms — and feeling like someone had just given me a gift.
I’m not even going to worry about copyright restrictions on this one. I take my risks. I have to post it all. Yes, I’d get sued for this poem.
Thanks, John. Thoreau once wrote, “to affect the quality of the day–that is the highest of arts.” Consider my day-quality improved with Stafford’s collection of words there. I’d hang it right over my desk if I didn’t think that seeing it every day wouldn’t numb me to the words. Instead, I’ll tuck it away and let it surprise me again another time.
Readers, you can either take that poem—if it’s also new to you—and let it sink in, leaving quietly. Option number two is: Tell me. What do you see when you turn around?
The Poetry Friday round-up is over at author amok today.