There he was, in the shorebird exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium,
so many years ago now, wearing his tiny unique ankle bracelet
which separates him from all the other sandpipers in the known world,
and walking around on his small patch of sand-brought-indoors.
If I had met him on the beach, he would fast have flown,
but he and his companion willet and friend godwit were used to us gawkers.
As I age, I am growing much less comfortable with these living exhibits.
Then I remember the time a monkey threw a small piece of dung
at my father-in-law when we all took to kids to the zoo.
He told the story many times over. almost choking with laughter.
On Facebook, many people post videos of animals tame and wild;
sometimes they figure out ways to make them do silly things
they think are funny. Sometimes, they are. So are people.
By the time we have learned how to live and how we think we ought to live,
our time for living is almost used up.
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.
The Oxford Book of American Poetry, edited by David Lehman,
Oxford University Press, 2006, page 619.
William Stafford thought about how to live a great deal more than many of us do.
That may be why his straightforward poems are among my very favorites.