For it is important that awake people be awake

This morning, B. gave me my first hug when I walked in. “It’s going to be ok, because we have each other.” I could not cry last night, but I felt that her words gave me permission to.

Below, excerpts from “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” by William Stafford. Line breaks and boldface are my own. Full poem can be found here.


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

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.

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