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 dyke.
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.
- William Stafford
I've been rereading this poem again and again, fascinated and convinced. Of what, I know not.
Might we puzzle this out together? Interesting that - or at least as it seems to me - much of this poem might be read multiple ways, yet his final urging is to be clear. Or does he mean "should" not as a directive but as a wish counter to experience, as in "it should be this way, yet it isn't"? The darkness within us is deep?
Ah, those first few reads are the falling in love bit: the vigilant awareness of the other, noting every turn and glance, parsing the signals, making the leap toward a hoped-for truth, landing in uncertainty, letting time pass, returning to clues, a letter under the desk , a quick unnecessary smile, then misreading the cues, then stumbling upon a long electric gaze, then puzzling again. Joy of the chase.
And I'm serious: What do you make of this poem? Tell me.