Mark Strand died today. He was 80, won a Pullitzer Prize, and was the U.S. Poet Laureate in 1990. i’m not sure I really understand a lot of the poems of his that I have read, even though the language is simple and the images are clear. I get this one, though. At the end, I hope I sing “What A Wonderful World”, or maybe that Natalie Merchant’s “Thank You”, except I don’t really like that song. Still, I’m all for going out with gratitude. I’ll be sad if the only song I can think of at the time is “Cold As Ice” or “Who Let the Dogs Out”.
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 End”, © 1990 by Mark Strand from The Continuous Life by Mark Strand. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a Division of Random House, Inc
Source: The Continuous Life: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)