May 25, 2013

We are the past coming to terms with itself - Three poems by Mark Strand

I was supposed to post a post about poetry every Friday in May and forgot last Friday and almost forgot this week but though I am a day late, here are three poems this Saturday evening by one of my favorite poets, Mark Strand.

(Source of picture)


The first one is from his book, The Late Hour

by Mark Strand

Now in the middle of my life
all things are white.
I walk under the trees,
the frayed leaves,
the wide net of noon,
and the day is white.
And my breath is white,
drifting over the patches
of grass and fields of ice
into the high circles of light.
As I walk, the darkness of
my steps is also white,
and my shadow blazes
under me. In all seasons
the silence where I find myself
and what I make of nothing are white,
the white of sorrow,
the white of death.
Even the night that calls
like a dark wish is white;
and in my sleep as I turn
in the weather of dreams
it is the white of my sheets
and the white shades of the moon
drawn over my floor
that save me for morning.
And out of my waking
the circle of light widens,
it fills with trees, houses,
stretches of ice.
It reaches out. It rings
the eye with white.
All things are one.
All things are joined
even beyond the edge of sight.

The second one is from his lovely book of poems, The Continuous Life.

The End
by Mark Strand

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,
Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like
When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,
Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,
When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down
No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.
When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus
And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,
Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing
When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.


And though it is difficult to say there is any one book by Mark Strand that I love more than the other, I'd say The Dark Harbor was the most enjoyable in some ways, with The Blizzard of One  being a close second, and The Continuous Life and other books all clubbed at #3! ;-)

So, the last poem today is from The Dark Harbor and is one I had transcribed and saved for later reference via a blurb on Since the entire book is like a series of poems, they do not have titles  and are just titled I, II, III, ... till XLV (45) or something like that.

There is a certain triviality in living here,
A lightness, a comic monotony that one tries
To undermine with shows of energy, a devotion

To the vagaries of desire, whereas over there
In a seriousness, a stiff, inflexible gloom
That shrouds the disappearing soul, a weight

That shames our lightness. Just look
Across the river and you will discover
How unworthy you are as you describe what you see,

Which is bound by what is available.
On the other side, no one is looking this way.
They are committed to obstacles,

To the textures and levels of darkness,
The tedious enactment of duration.
And they labor not for bread or love

But to perpetuate the balance between the past
And the future. They are the future as it
Extends itself, just as we are the past

Coming to terms with itself.


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