Sunday, November 30, 2014

last breath

When people ask me how to read a poem (which always happens a lot when they learn about my undergraduate degree), I always tell them to try reading Robert Hass, Stephen Dunn, or Mark Strand. Especially the last one. “Just feel the words,” I would suggest. Meaning, let them sink deep on their own. Poetry, like love, cannot be forced. Though I only know a few poems from Strand, these few have left an imprint of deep admiration in me. That is why when news about his death came this morning, I can only think of this as a token of gratitude for his lasting genius: To read more of his works, to continue feeling his words. Below is a newfound favorite.

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Breath
Mark Strand (1935-2014)

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.

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