Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.
Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and freshly mown fields.
Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.
Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.
Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.
Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.
Play music, learn the word for thank you in three languages.
Learn to knit, and make a hat.
Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
Swim for the other side.
Never has the world seemed so fresh and precious.
Have a cup of tea and rejoice.
Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Don’t wait another minute.
on the welcoming
ground, the earth’s
spine becoming mine.
Peace seeps into
heavy limbs and
slows my heartbeat
to the pace of nature.
I take refuge
in the quiet, and let
my burdens go,
one by one, until
the earth and I
both float in the
same vast and
“I allow, just for a moment, the past to push hard against the walls of my heart…”
Yet in a way, I wish for everything back that ever was, everything that once seems like forever and yet vanished. I wish for my own girlhood bedroom with its dark brown desk, the monkey with real fur from the 1964 World’s Fair, the pile of coloring books under my bed. I wish for my grandparents, both long gone, and Saturday night suppers at their kitchen table, in a house whose smell of bath powder and pipe smoke I will remember always. I wish for a chance to relive an afternoon with my brother, when I was mean and made him cry by grinding a cookie into the dirt beneath the swing set at our very first house. I wish for my horse, sold thirty-odd years ago, and the dim corner of her stall in a barn long since demolished, her sweet breath on my neck as I brushed her…
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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?
~~ William Stafford ~~