Tuesday, January 21, 2020

ways to live

1. India

In India in their lives they happen
again and again, being people or
animals. And if you live well
your next time could be even better.

That's why they often look into your eyes
and you know some far-off story
with them and you in it, and some
animal waiting over at the side.

Who would want to happen just once?
It's too abrupt that way, and
when you're wrong, it's too late
to go back - you've done it forever.

And you can't have that soft look when you
pass, the way they do it in India.

2. Having It Be Tomorrow

Day, holding its lantern before it,
moves over the whole earth slowly
to brighten that edge and push it westward.
Shepherds on upland pastures begin fires
for breakfast, beads of light that extend
miles of horizon. Then it's noon and
coasting toward a new tomorrow.

If you're in on that secret, a new land
will come every time the sun goes
climbing over it, and the welcome of children
will remain every day new in your heart.
Those around you don't have it new,
and they shake their heads turning grey every
morning when the sun comes up. And you laugh.

3. Being Nice And Old

After their jobs are done old people
cackle together. They look back and shiver,
all of that was so dizzying when it happened;
and now if there is any light at all it
knows how to rest on the faces of friends.
And any people you don't like, you just turn
the page a little more and wait while they
find out what time is and begin to bend
lower; or you can turn away
and let them drop off the edge of the world.

4. Good Ways To Live

At night outside it all moves or
almost moves - trees, grass,
touches of wind. The room you have
in the world is ready to change.
Clouds parade by, and stars in their
configurations. Birds from far
touch the fabric around them - you can
feel their wings move. Somewhere under
the earth it waits, that emanation
of all things. It breathes. It pulls you
slowly out through doors or windows
and you spread in the thin halo of night mist.
 ~ William Stafford
from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems
 art: Parliament of the Birds. Mantiq Ut'tair, Farahaddin Attar
"Ways to Live" was written from July 19 through 21 of 1993,
 just over a month before William Stafford's death in August of that year.