This is one of my favorite poems as it has allowed me to relate in so numerous ways when it comes to life. All through my life there have been many ups and downs, and many people that have come and gone; but no matter what the series of events that I have come across have made me who I am today. There have been many people that have played important roles in my life but as William Stafford entails people will come and go; and people will play all kinds of roles in your life.
When people make inquiries from me whether I would take anything in my life back if i had a chance, I answer with no since the people I have been involved with and the blunders I have made shaped who I am today.
The poem is written in the future tense; from the first person perception of “I”. This is style isvery different from other poets.
Stafford reaches out to audiences in the first line with the words “ask me”. Stafford writes of a future occasion when questions will be asked of him. It begins with a dialogue between the orator and another person. We have no reason to believe that the orator is not Stafford himself. The other person could be the audience, but sounds more like a close companion or at least somebody who knows him well.
The poem begins: “Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me what I have done in my life.”(Stafford) In these two sentences, he brings in two things: first, what the poem is regarding (his life), and second the main metaphor (the river iced over).
For the rest of the first stanza he talks of the consequence other people have had whether good or bad. Or somewhat he is asking the listener to ask him; which is odd since the second verse begins: “I will pay attention to what you say” (Stafford). The second stanza reddens out the metaphor of the ice-covered river. That while it looks immobile; what’s beneath is a different story: “We know the current is there, concealed; and there are comings and goings from miles away”
The river in the rhyme, for Stafford, as it has been for many poets although the ages, is an image and metaphor for the orator’s life. Fascinatingly in an interview, when he is talking about himself he make use of the same image:“I keep following this kind of concealed river of my life, you know, whatever the subject or impulse which comes, I follow it along gullibly (Stafford).
And I don’t have any sagacity of its coming to a sort of upsurge, or of its petering out either.” The poem is saying that there is a difference to be made, between how immobile and peaceful the ice-covered river may look on the facade; this could be how human beings remembers their life, a sequence of actions and events frozen in recall. And what is beneath, that actions and blunders cannot be seen in isolation, but are managed and influenced by events and people. In the same way the path of a river is influenced by things that govern its course.
Stafford gives us the eventual life lesson concealed within life’s blunders. We all ask ourselves and others as well if our choices are slip-ups. But in reality no choice in life is a slip-up, but an example in which we learn from. You will always have people within your life that are there to upset you or help you, but in the end what is done is your option. We as humans are not ideal and shouldn’t hide behind “the ice” for the “mistakes” we have made, for in our life is already planned out for us it’s our choice on what road to take. Stafford gives us encouragement within his rhyme; permitting us to see ourselves for who we are and not what we do.
Stafford, William. “Ask Me.” Gioia, X. J. Kennedy and Dana. Literature. New York: Pearson, 2010. 643. Book