Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mark Strand: Lines For Winter


Mark Strand, Pulitzer-prize-winning poet, died today, and I'll be damned if he didn't write just about the best poem to encapsulate my mood. His other poems are equally gorgeous and spare in tone, but this one is particularly timely for me.
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.

Offered without commentary today simply because I can't quite encapsulate the sneakiness of grief, almost two years later, as Christmas lights twinkle and the weather gets darker. This is why we have poets: to say what we mean, and mean what we say.

What are you telling yourself these days?


  1. My grief is almost 4 years old. It seems to come back in waves, swelling up but I'm never sure where or how it will break. It truly is one stinkin' little step at a time.

  2. We are through the holidays, and I hope your waves have been minor swells. Thank you for commenting. :)

  3. Thank you, Suzannah, for posting this poem by Mark with such a striking photograph. I read the poem recently (I was giving a Brown Bag Lunch lecture at the Nebraska State Historical Society) in memory of the person who put the series together who had recently died.

    I first met Mark in New York (many moons ago) when I was doing my MA at New York University. Those were heady days when it seemed that all you needed to survive was poetry. I invited him to read for an NYU poetry series, and he was very generous with his time. I had gathered poetry submissions from students and given them to Mark so he could comment on them. He was unflinchingly honest in his comments. I think it was Erica Jong who once said that he was the poet who slept with death.

  4. It was such a striking poem and so apt for the day I posted it. Thank you for commenting; I love to hear when gifted people are so giving of themselves.