Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Analysis, meaning and summary of William Stafford's poem Ask Me


  1. Richard says:

    I’ve used this poem in my health services management class with undergraduates. It has been very effective in stimulating introspection about life-as-career-as-life; it has helped our discussions about the role of work vis-a-vis the rest of our lives.
    I would highly recommend it.

  2. Aj says:


  3. hong chow says:

    i want lrn will staford

  4. Kean Salzer says:

    Ask me if the life I am living is the life that is in me…ask me if I have been true to my design…to my heart…ask me, so that I might be challenged to sit and consider…and raise once again the banner that is to be my unique identity…and having come once again to me I allow myself to reenter the river of life full of a million little waves and drops who make it alive…

  5. toni says:

    what a great poem

  6. olivia m birigenda says:

    After everything else has stilled (the river) reflect – some of if not most of our mistakes are not of our own making – i think.

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