December 4, 2014

Three poems by Mark Strand (1934–2014)

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.

The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter

It had been a long day at the office and a long ride back to the small apartment where I
lived. When I got there I flicked on the light and saw on the table an envelope with my
name on it. Where was the clock? Where was the calendar? The handwriting was my
father’s, but he had been dead for forty years. As one might, I began to think that
maybe, just maybe, he was alive, living a secret life somewhere nearby. How else to explain the envelope? To steady myself, I sat down, opened it, and pulled out the letter.
“Dear Son,” was the way it began. “Dear Son” and then nothing.

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Mark Strand, "The End," from The Continuous Life, Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.
Mark Strand, "The Mysterious Arrival of an Unusual Letter," Poetry, January 2011.
Mark Strand, "Keeping Things Whole," from Selected Poems, Alfred A. Knopf, 1979, 1980, 2002.
All poems accessed at The Poetry Foundation.