Saturday, July 20, 2013

each moment

Black Maps
by Mark Strand

Not the attendance of stones,
nor the applauding wind,
shall let you know
you have arrived,

not the sea that celebrates
only departures,
nor the mountains,
nor the dying cities.

Nothing will tell you
where you are.
Each moment is a place
you’ve never been.

You can walk
believing you cast
a light around you.
But how will you know?

The present is always dark.
Its maps are black,
rising from nothing,

in their slow ascent
into themselves,
their own voyage,
its emptiness,

the bleak, temperate
necessity of its completion.
As they rise into being
they are like breath.

And if they are studied at all
it is only to find,
too late, what you thought
were concerns of yours

do not exist.
Your house is not marked
on any of them,
nor are your friends,

waiting for you to appear,
nor are your enemies,
listing your faults.
Only you are there,

saying hello
to what you will be,
and the black grass
is holding up the black stars.


  1. A very fine poem that deserves to be mined through more than one reading. I especially like the way the poem closes, with the recognition that our diligent studies lead us "only to find, too late," that what we thought were concerns of ours do not exist; that neither our houses nor our friends are marked on the maps; and that, ultimately, each of us is the only person there a any given moment, "saying hello" to what we will be.

    1. I am so glad you find this poem rich for mining too, George. "Each moment is a place / you've never been." At first "black maps" sounds dark in a menacing sense. But black here is something very different. I tend to think of "white space" as the backdrop for a moment. Black helps me envision the vastness of space.

  2. Definitely worth more than one reading, Ruth. Like Bishop resting in its lap, I would love to cogitate there awhile.


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