Schneider: The world lost a great artist recently when Mark Strand passed away. The most brilliant poet of my lifetime, in my opinion, he makes writing seem effortless and within reach of most people. Even though his vocabulary and intellect far surpassed that of most people. His poems are simply written and elegant and beautiful. If there were more poets like him, the world would read more poetry. Sadly, there was only one. He’ll be missed. A good place to start is Strand’sCollected Poems, where the following poems were originally published, but all of his books are great.
Keeping things whole
In a field
I am the absence
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.
When I walk
I part the air
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.
We all have reasons
to keep things whole.
Man and Camel
On the eve of my fortieth birthday
I sat on the porch having a smoke
when out of the blue a man and a camel
happened by. Neither uttered a sound
at first, but as they drifted up the street
and out of town the two of them began to sing.
Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me—
the words were indistinct and the tune
too ornamental to recall. Into the desert
they went and as they went their voices
rose as one above the sifting sound
of windblown sand. The wonder of their singing,
its elusive blend of man and camel, seemed
an ideal image for all uncommon couples.
Was this the night that I had waited for
so long? I wanted to believe it was,
but just as they were vanishing, the man
and camel ceased to sing, and galloped
back to town. They stood before my porch,
staring up at me with beady eyes, and said:
“You ruined it. You ruined it forever.”
When you see them
tell them I am still here,
that I stand on one leg while the other one dreams,
that this is the only way,
that the lies I tell them are different
from the lies I tell myself,
that by being both here and beyond
I am becoming a horizon,
that as the sun rises and sets I know my place,
that breath is what saves me,
that even the forced syllables of decline are breath,
that if the body is a coffin it is also a closet of breath,
that breath is a mirror clouded by words,
that breath is all that survives the cry for help
as it enters the stranger’s ear
and stays long after the world is gone,
that breath is the beginning again, that from it
all resistance falls away, as meaning falls
away from life, or darkness fall from light,
that breath is what I give them when I send my love