Monday, August 11, 2008

The Continuous Life

What of the neighborhood homes awash
In a silver light, of children hunched in the bushes,
Watching the grown-ups for signs of surrender,
Signs that the irregular pleasures of moving
From day to day, of being adrift on the swell of duty,
Have run their course? O parents, confess
To your little ones the night is a long way off
And your taste for the mundane grows; tell them
Your worship of household chores has barely begun;
Describe the beauty of shovels and rakes, brooms and mops;
Say there will always be cooking and cleaning to do,
That one thing leads to another, which leads to another;
Explain that you live between two great darks, the first
With an ending, the second without one, that the luckiest
Thing is having been born, that you live in a blur
Of hours and days, months and years, and believe
It has meaning, despite the occasional fear
You are slipping away with nothing completed, nothing
To prove you existed. Tell the children to come inside,
That your search goes on for something you lost—a name,
A family album that fell from its own small matter
Into another, a piece of the dark that might have been yours,
You don't really know. Say that each of you tries
To keep busy, learning to lean down close and hear
The careless breathing of earth and feel its available
Languor come over you, wave after wave, sending
Small tremors of love through your brief,
Undeniable selves, into your days, and beyond.
-- Mark Strand

4 comments:

Mrs. T said...

Thanks for posting this poem, which I hadn't read in a long, long time. Mark Strand was a teacher of mine in graduate school -- an experience which I've put behind me rather firmly for all kinds of reasons (all of grad school, not just Mark), and I had honestly forgotten how breathtaking his poems can be.

Pentimento said...

I'm sorry your experience was unpleasant, Mrs. T. I really admire his poetry - it has so much clarity. My brother, a composer, has set some of his poems to music.

Mrs. T said...

Well, not that unpleasant . . . just not a great fit, with many habits of thought which it took me years to kick. And I didn't not get along with Mark, though I didn't especially hit it off with him, either. He was good entertainment -- once, as we all sat waiting for him to come to the class he was supposed to be teaching, another classmate arriving said he'd seen him, and that Mark's message to us had been, "Tell them all *Strand* will be late."

I'd love to hear the settings of the poems. Which poems?

Pentimento said...

You know, I sang one in a concert about 12 years ago, but can't remember it now. I'll ask my brother.