‘Our Story’ by William Stafford is a love story that never ends, life after life they will be together. Stafford suggests that love transcends death, and lovers will always remain so, and return to each other.
Although in this very moment William Stafford and his lover are not together, the poet argues that they will be together again soon. They will always find their way back to each other, with the poet suggesting that ‘Our Story’ the story of their love, is one that never stops, always returning to flourish anew. The poem engages with ideas of death and the afterlife, the cyclic nature of life being a core theme.
You can read the full poem here.
The poem is split by Stafford into 10 lines. The first 9 lines of ‘Our Story’ comprise one stanza, with the final line being separated from the others and concluding the poem. This structural isolation reflects the theme of separation, with Stafford representing the couple that have broken up through the solitary line.
Alongside the structural techniques used by Stafford in the spacing of stanzas, he also employs caesura in order to emphasize different moments within the poem. In doing this, words or phrases become the focus of the poem, manipulating its meaning due to the differing stress.
Another technique that Stafford uses when writing ‘Our Story’ is the use and manipulation of pronouns. Throughout the story there is a changing approach to pronouns, starting with the solo ‘me’, and then moving to the collective ‘we’ when Stafford tells the tale of their love. In doing this, Stafford uses pronouns to represent the couple’s current standing, being together or separated implied through pronouns.
Analysis of Our Story
Lines 1 -2
Remind me again—together we
trace our strange journey, find
The first line of the poem begins with the word ‘Remind’, instantly suggesting that the poem will be toying with the past and memories. ‘Remind’ similarly has connotations of something forgotten, with Stafford perhaps presenting the idea that he has forgotten parts of their relationship, demeaning its importance. On the other hand, the use of ‘Remind’ could also be Stafford playing it off as if he doesn’t really care, when in fact, as the poem progresses, we understand that he cares a great deal for his lover.
The use of the hyphen after the opening phrase, ‘Remind me again—‘ compounds a sense of shifting tenses, with the poem now reverting back into memory, with Stafford and his lover exploring what happened in their relationship. Instantly after this pause, with the caesura emphasizing the temporal shift, we are introduced to a sense of the couple being incredibly close. They are ‘together’, and more so are presented as both being under the umbrella pronoun of ‘we’. Their love for one another is insinuated by this coupling pronoun, them both being closely linked through Stafford linguistic decisions.
Stafford continues with the verb ‘trace’, the delicate nature of the word suggesting that this topic is sensitive, and must therefore be treated with caution. Indeed, the ‘journey’ they take together implies that there are high and lows to their relationship, the adjective ‘strange’ furthering the sense that this story is one that they may not enjoy retelling.
each other, come on laughing.
ends. We’ll both look back
They ‘find / each other’, coming together to tell the story of their love. They do this while ‘laughing’ instantly setting the atmosphere of the poem to one of joviality and calm – they are both at peace with the past, and can see it with objective eyes. They ‘laugh’ at their past mistakes, seeing now, with the help of time, to see how trivial their arguments were.
The subjective nature of ’Some time’ suggests that they are in a state beyond reality, one that cannot exactly be pinned down to time or place. The use of ‘some’ gives this moment a sense of uncertainty, we are unsure where exactly this narrative is taking place. Perhaps as they are dealing with the realm of memory, things like time seem less important and are therefore not directly included in the narrative.
The idea that they ‘cross where life ends’ could suggest either the end of their relationship or perhaps the end of their lives altogether. Stafford could be writing this poem metaphorically from beyond the grave, exploring how the situation will play out when he meets his lover again, and they can go over their history, recounting old tales and laughing at past mistakes. The focus on ‘end’ suggests that their relationship could have ended, with Stafford perhaps lamenting its destruction and seeking some form of comfort, even if it is only in metaphor.
They, again, expressed through the grouped pronoun ‘we’, ‘look back as far as forever, that first day’, exploring the past they shared together. There is an uncertain element to this poem, with the explanation perhaps being that Stafford is visualizing his lover and himself as dead, meeting once again beyond the grave so they can finally be together. The idea of looking back ‘forever’, with a degree of exaggeration, presents this moment as almost metaphysical, with Stafford tapping into the unknown and extraordinary to convey the strange story of their relationship.
The use of future tense, ‘I’ll’ suggests that this situation isn’t really happening, also compounding the sense that he is envisioning a moment beyond reality. It seems that Stafford is no longer with his lover, and is using his poetry as a mechanism of reconnecting with her, even if he knows it is only on the plane of metaphor. The connection of ‘touch’ furthers this idea, with him not being able to touch her in this current moment suggesting that they are not together.
This ‘New world’ further connects with ideas of deaths, the new experience binding them together, and meaning that the lovers can finally be together.
Stars will move a different way.
Remind me again.
The beauty of the ‘stars’ is connected to their relationship, the lovers’ astral scene becoming the central focus of the poem as ‘Our Story’ moves in a more metaphorical style. The different way that ‘Stars will move’ perhaps suggests they are in a different ‘world’ completely, this again connecting with the idea of death and moving on to the afterlife.
The ambiguity of ‘We’ll both end. We’ll both begin’, across the closely mirrored sentences compounds the sense of metaphor and lack of reality. The cyclic narrative that Stafford is here projecting could relate to the idea of eternal life, always continuing forever. He argues that they will always be together, in this life, and the next, and the next. Stafford is suggesting that their love is eternal, they will be together again, even if in this moment they are not.
This repeated narrative which elevates the promise of their eternal love is furthered by the final line in the poem, ‘Remind me again’ echoing the first line, and therefore extending the cycle again and again.