You Reading This, Be Ready by William Stafford

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life––

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

You Reading This, Be Ready

This poem has been my loyal companion on my solitary river walks these days, speaking the lines out loud (is that woman talking to herself??) as I go. The more I say these words, the more their comfort eases me and they sink into my bones.

Just that first line Starting here, what do you want to remember? carries me off into realms of wondering. The images of sight and scent and sound are all around me.

But it’s the next question that slows my walk: Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? The answer of course, is no. And I’m hooked on the notion of ‘breathing respect’.

The repetition of starting here brings me back to this moment, just as each breath can do. The invitation to carry all that you want from this day, to keep it for life is too enticing to resist.

And the final question takes my breath away each time: What can anyone give you greater than now? What indeed! Always that reminder that there is nothing more than this, this moment, this now.

May the breathing respect you carry remind you that now is all we have, all we need.

 

 

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