A Ritual To Read To Each Other

Here is the poem that inspired Fountain Street Church’s 2015 Ekphrastic – Words and Art exhibit was written by a beloved American poet: William Stafford. I like to think that William Stafford would appreciate knowing that his poem inspired these new creations. Alas, we will need a medium to reach beyond our world to ask him. Hmmm. Maybe I can write myself into the next world to have a conversation with him. Stay tuned!

And if you’d like to see the exhibit in person, it remains on display through the end of August in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. And it will remain here (see earlier posts) into the future.

A Ritual To Read To Each Other

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
And I don’t know the kind of person you are
A pattern that others made may prevail in the world
And following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
A shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
Sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
Storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant’s tail,
But if one wanders the circus won’t find the park
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
To know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
A remote important region in all who talk:
Though we could fool each other, we should consider –
Lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
Or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
The signals we give – yes, or not, or maybe –
Should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

       – William Stafford


The Root Of All Cruelty

by Nessa McCasey

“I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
To know what occurs but not recognize the fact.” – William Stafford

I don’t know you;
You don’t know me.
We sleepwalk through our lives
And if, perchance, we bump
into each other, it jars us awake.

Take a riot.
The anger of disempowered people
Bursts out onto a landscape.
Don’t let it fool you –
You may not understand.
So take a moment to go inside,
Imagine being in a young man’s brown skin.
Try to know him as well as
You know yourself: his background
Of discrimination, poverty, despair,
His pain, his loss of dreams and family members.

Then inhabit your own body again
And thank god that you have your own
Safe life. And yet (I must prod you now),
Why on earth be here just to be safe?

I don’t know you;
You don’t know me.
How about we start radically listening
To each other’s inside stories?
How else can we be citizens of this humanity?

Summer Forts

by William C. DeVries


We called it “making a fort.”
Walking out across the city street
Boys stroll side by side chatting –
Oh, we’d never call it so –
Of the stuff of bats and balls and brave Indians and soldiers.

There we entered into the magic land
Of milkweed and tall grass.
And soon, deep hidden from every critics’ eye,
With young leg and conversive feet
We bent down an intimate circle of imagination.

Sopped with ritual sweat we sat
And talked. Words fell free unfettered in the safety.
For a time mothers, sisters, brothers and even fearsome fathers
Were chewed and laughed and spat,
But never cried, oh, never cried.

And then imagination ruled for a time
And armies rose and fell
And lands were lost and won and lost.
And friendship was an easy thing
Caught in an airy circle.

One can make a fort alone.
Two feet are plenty on a pair of growing legs.
The space will yield to single force, and has.
Yet somehow there is no circle built by self alone.
Two points connect to seal the day’s promise.

Old friends are misted memories now that ride the fickle wind.
And I, grown gray, see summers’ forts long since plowed under.
What I live is many things of distance and circled hopes,
Yet often I ride the breeze which stirs still
Some tousled heads in forts soon made, soon gone.


Ahh, the stories that are told in our writings and paintings are remarkable. Thank you, William, for making me think back to my own childhood forts and times with family and early friends. The ripples from the Stafford poem, “A Ritual To Read To Each Other” can go on and on and on…

I See You

by Sherri Faler


I see you.
Do you see me?
I feel your thoughts
And hear what isn’t spoken.

I know, but sometimes don’t believe.
At times the hype seduces me,
And the treachery of self-doubt seeps in,
Disturbing my peaceful countenance.

Through slight of hand
Fear, the Tormentor, prevails once more,
Causing me to lose touch with my gift,
And to forfeit my power.
Diminishing my capacity to help you find yours.

We glance furtively at each other,
Losing sight of our common humanity.
The sun recedes, life contracts, joys diminish…

I grow weary of the darkness
And search for the light above.
I find my way back
To the clear, deep reservoir within.
Refreshed, I tap into the flow.

Ah, when the instrument of my soul is in tune…
The songs resume,
The various, glorious hues are revealed,
My spirit soars!

My heart bursts with love
And compassion flows freely.

I see you.
You see me.
I feel you.
We are one.