Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
— William Stafford, You, Reading This, Be Ready
Isn’t the magic in a poem is in its discovery? It’s the chance encounter with a voice from beyond our moment, and the quiet conversation that ensues. Like life itself, we find our stride in this world one encounter, and one lesson, at a time.
Maybe heightened awareness of living is the thing. Poetry offers a new recipe for living. It’s meeting each day as they roll past, relentlessly, until we beach this life and move on to infinity. It’s living each day with curiosity and a yearning to understand. It’s not accepting the beliefs we’ve layered together like a lasagna of closed-mindedness and moving beyond that recipe to find a new way of savoring this life.
Maybe the questions are the thing. Poetry brings forward questions we never thought of before. How do we make the most of our days, and of our encounters? Through work and contribution? Through raising children to be better humans than we are? Are we here to serve as ambassadors to the world? Or simply to find a bit of dark sky to borrow for an evening to reacquaint ourselves with distant cousins? For aren’t we derived from stardust too?
Maybe finally seeing is the thing. Poetry brings us to places previously unseen. This glimpse of new ways of living is a gift, should we accept it. In opening our eyes and living a fuller life than we previously did we transcend who we once were in favor of the potential for a larger life. For what can anyone give us that is greater than now?