I know I’ve mentioned the wonderful William Stafford before, but I find myself repeatedly coming back to him because he’s my go-to guy for inspiration and reassurance, without the bullshit.
Now I’ve read this particular poem to a few people (friends, students) and asked them afterwards what they think “the thread” refers to. None of them seems to have the same thing in mind as I reflexively did when I heard the poem first read to me, so I’ll refrain from giving away my personal interpretation but nonetheless I hope it means something for you; I’m almost certain it will, because I suspect there is a philosophical universality to this poem, that kind of innate human truth which the best poetry hints at.
The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.