To vote, you blacken a box on paper,
you keystroke a blip on a screen,
you punch a hole in a ballot
and your hope becomes a number
for tabulation in democracy’s machine,
one among millions, a seed of wheat
heaped in the granary, a drop of rain
seeking to quell the fires of confusion.
But you also have a voice—to speak,
to question, to imagine, to sing, to declare,
propose, honor, reveal, investigate, affirm,
console, discover, befriend.
How big is a vote? — one bead on a strand
of millions, one thorn scratch in mud, one
dimple left in sand by the centipede’s
hind foot on its journey from dusk to dawn.
How big is a voice? — partaking of the sky,
inhaling wind and sending forth a song
that fills a room, and could turn the minds of many,
could build a vision for our great adventure.
You must count the river with a teaspoon, your
essential vote. You must also sing across the waters,
offering who you are to the long weaving work
of who we are for the days to come: in many, one.

Original Poem by Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford, as reflection from a SAGE citizenship conversation.