Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stafford and Dillard talking in my mind

Poem: Ask me 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.
I've been thinking a lot about two authors lately. William Stafford and Annie Dillard. Stafford because of the poem above, which I've been living with for years now. It's just one of many of his poems I adore. And Dillard both because of all the spiders I've seen lately and because her book "For the time of being" is one of the reasons I believe in God, in spite of the fact that it doesn't really talk about God. Ironic eh!

Both of these writings have a salvific beyondness to them. They are spacious and point to the transcendence of things in this world. Things like our very selves and nature (sand, spiders, death, babies...). I can't think of either this poem or Dillard's books without feeling all that's unknown. "For the time of being" altered me.

There is something about the unknown, beyondness, and transcendence that does not scare me but that comforts me. And the wonder full wild dialog between poems like Stafford and books like Dillards are things I can't get enough of. I particularly like to put Staffords line "Ask me whether what I have done is my life?" And the pondering of Dillard like the below in conversation.
'There are only beings, everywhere.'" Almost 6 billion beings, Dillard notes, of whom 100 million are street children and about half are Chinese peasants. So how are we to care, or even comprehend, when a typhoon, famine, or genocidal dictator sweeps a few million of us into the grave?

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