William Stafford, poet, lifelong pacifist, and National Book Award winner, was a conscientious objector during WWII, taught at Lewis & Clark College for decades and was Oregon’s beloved poet laureate.
His poetry is filled with images of the natural world — flowing water, waving grass, passing seasons. On August 28, 1993, Stafford died of a heart attack having just written a poem containing the lines, “‘You don’t have to / prove anything,’ my mother said. ‘Just be ready / for what God sends.’
Here is his poem called, Being a Person:
Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.
A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.
Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.
How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.
Text as published in Even in Quiet Places: Poems (Confluence Press, 2010).