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
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dike.
And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.
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.
“Stafford is a poet of ordinary life. His collected poems are the journal of a man recording daily concerns. That is why his daily method of writing is relevant to his life's work. You could say that his poetry is truly quotidian: he writes it every day; it comes out of every day. And the poet of the quotidian did not find it necessary to become maudit, to follow Hart Crane to the waterfront or Baudelaire to the whorehouse or even Lowell to McLean's. He got up at six in the morning in a suburb of Portland and drained the sump.”