William Stafford

(January 17, 1914 – August 28, 1993 / Kansas)

Ask Me


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.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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# 269 poem on top 500 Poems


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  • Rookie - 650 Points Leslie Philibert (11/14/2014 3:48:00 AM)

    This fascinates me, especially the first verse that uses very original grammatical strcutures, strictly looked at lines
    that don`t parse.I`ll look at his work, like this. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Jerry Buckley (3/22/2010 4:13:00 PM)

    I agree with Julie Reynolds- Otrugman.....what she said... six stars and three thumbs up (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Julie Reynolds-Otrugman (1/17/2009 6:25:00 PM)

    This is one of my favorite Stafford poems. It speaks to his quiet inner stillness, out of which his conviction, his steadfastness, his mysteriously reserved and resonant poetry speaks. 'Ask me whether what I have done is my life.' That is such a powerful statement. All of his many honors really meant very little. It was the rich pool of his hidden inner life, forever changing and renewing, that was 'his life'. I love that idea. It says that what you can see about a person is only the tip of the iceberg; the real life is submerged and sacred, untouchable, eternal. (Report) Reply

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