Jul 13 2018

William Stafford – You Reading This, Be Ready

Published by at 7:45 am under Poetry

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?

— from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems, by William Stafford


/ Image by Sloan Poe /

Starting here,,,

William Stafford starts his poem with this phrase and then repeats it prominently throughout. This is a poem about being present. It is a poem about noticing where we are within the present moment — and about noticing what shares the space of now with us.

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?

Let’s take a moment to stop being lost in our thoughts and our plans for the day and just notice where we are, right now. As the mind settles, the senses become our allies. They start to wake up and notice the quiet beauty and little mysteries right next to us.

Everything awaits the gift of awareness. Every phenomenon, no matter how small, is a miracle just waiting for us to notice it, so that it can lead us back to right here.

What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

This is how we can stop using the senses as one more distraction but as a gentle way to bring our awareness back to center.

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now?

Isn’t that a wonderful line? More important than anything we may do or think, it is our “breathing respect” that we bring with us into the present moment that is our true gift to the world. That sense of breathing, being present as we notice the world, means we are actually here, ourselves. This is showing proper respect to the world. Breath is communion. Breath is a living connection with the world. Breath brings us back to center in the heart within the living moment.

Breath and attention, these say, here I am. If we aren’t breathing fully, and if we aren’t paying attention, they we are saying that we’d rather be somewhere else. We have severed our connection. That is not showing proper respect.

Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

We think we are waiting for that perfect thought that somehow gives us permission to be present. We already have that permission. And thoughts don’t work that way. We just notice. We settle into ourselves. We breathe. And we become present.

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 —

This is important advice, whether talking about meditation and prayer or simply the artist’s reverie– what we notice, starting here in the present moment, that feeling of life and peace and magic, we don’t want to leave it behind. It should not be relegated to our moments of sitting still. We can learn to carry it with us as we shift into other activities and different phases of the day.

No strict dividing line between the bliss of the moment and the movement of the wider day. As we become more attuned to our meditation, we invite the meditation into our work, our social interactions, and the changing rhythms of the evening. It is all meditation. When we find the present moment in the day, it is not lost in the night.

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

Being awake and fully ourselves right now, that is what we all want. Beneath our other drives that is what we truly seek. And it is always available to us. So why do we exile ourselves from being alive in this moment? All we have to do is turn around and start here.

Be ready.


Recommended Books: William Stafford

The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems My Name is William Tell Dancing with Joy: 99 Poems Even in Quiet Places Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford
More Books >>


William Stafford, William Stafford poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry William Stafford

US (1914 – 1993) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

More poetry by William Stafford

One response so far

One Response to “William Stafford – You Reading This, Be Ready”

  1. Roseon 13 Jul 2018 at 10:12 am

    I Love this Poem..The returning Invitation to The present moment.It is a very quiet invitation a very Intimate Invitation and a very important Invitation. My favourite line was ” what can any One give You greater than now” . Wow! This really is a most profound question in relation to The Answere..and I Love the Answere….
    I will always remember this poem It has already taken seat in My Heart. I am grateful.

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