Sunday, November 30, 2014

In Memoriam: Mark Strand, 1934–2014


The Remains

I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.
What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.
My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds.
How can I sing? Time tells me what I am.
I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

-from Darker (1970):
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/30/nyregion/mark-strand-80-dies-pulitzer-winning-poet-laureate.html


I

I am writing from a place you have never been,
Where the trains don’t run, and planes
Don’t land, a place to the west,

Where heavy hedges of snow surround each house,
Where the wind screams at the moon’s blank face,
Where the people are plain, and fashions,

If they come, come late and are seen
As forms of oppression, sources of sorrow.
This is a place that sparkles a bit at 7 P.M.,

Then goes out, and slides into the funeral home
Of the stars, and everyone dreams of floating
Like angels in sweet-smelling habits,

Of being released from sundry services
Into the round of pleasures there for the asking—
Days like pages torn from a family album,

Endless reunions, the heavenly choir at the barbecue
Adjusting its tone to serve the occasion,
And everyone staring, stunned into magnitude.

-from "After Our Planet" (1992):
http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/11/29/mark-strand-1934-2014


Coming to This

We have done what we wanted.
We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry
of each other, and we have welcomed grief
and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

And now we are here.
The dinner is ready and we cannot eat.
The meat sits in the white lake of its dish.
The wine waits.

Coming to this
has its rewards: nothing is promised, nothing is taken away.
We have no heart or saving grace,
no place to go, no reason to remain.

-from Selected Poems (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179131


In Celebration

You sit in a chair, touched by nothing, feeling
the old self become the older self, imagining
only the patience of water, the boredom of stone.
You think that silence is the extra page,
you think that nothing is good or bad, not even
the darkness that fills the house while you sit watching
it happen. You’ve seen it happen before. Your friends
move past the window, their faces soiled with regret.
You want to wave but cannot raise your hand.
You sit in a chair. You turn to the nightshade spreading
a poisonous net around the house. You taste
the honey of absence. It is the same wherever
you are, the same if the voice rots before
the body, or the body rots before the voice.
You know that desire leads only to sorrow, that sorrow
leads to achievement which leads to emptiness.
You know that this is different, that this
is the celebration, the only celebration,
that by giving yourself over to nothing,
you shall be healed. You know there is joy in feeling
your lungs prepare themselves for an ashen future,
so you wait, you stare and you wait, and the dust settles
and the miraculous hours of childhood wander in darkness.

-from Selected Poems (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179137


Lines for Winter

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

-from New Selected Poems (2007):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/181380


My Life

The huge doll of my body
refuses to rise.
I am the toy of women.
My mother

would prop me up for her friends.
“Talk, talk,” she would beg.
I moved my mouth
but words did not come.

My wife took me down from the shelf.
I lay in her arms. “We suffer
the sickness of self,” she would whisper.
And I lay there dumb.

Now my daughter
gives me a plastic nurser
filled with water.
“You are my real baby,” she says.

Poor child!
I look into the brown
mirrors of her eyes
and see myself

diminishing, sinking down
to a depth she does not know is there.
Out of breath,
I will not rise again.

I grow into my death.
My life is small
and getting smaller. The world is green.
Nothing is all.

-from Selected Poems (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179136


The End

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.

-from The Continuous Life (1990):
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/182871

Monday, November 10, 2014

"The Story" by Joe Bolton

If it rained tonight
I’d lie down
For a thousand years.

—As if nothing had happened;
As if the story
Wouldn’t tell itself forever:

No more mother, no remembered loves, and my pulse
Purified, the only sound
As I lowered myself into the depths…

But the bells are ringing up the hill,
Punishing bells,
Recounting all the arguments against me.

If I’ve created the story of my life,
Why not now the story
Of not having ever lived at all?

Maybe then there wouldn’t be this burden
Of what was lost
Almost before it had arrived.

Maybe then there wouldn’t be this weight
Of what is
And what I can feel myself already losing.