Next time what I'd do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I'd stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I'd watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.
And for all, I'd know more—the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.
"Next Time" by William Stafford, from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems. © Graywolf Press, 1998.
Photography credit: "Winter Wren, Sax Zim Bog, St. Louis County, MN," June 20, 2011 © John Schwarz (originally color).