Man and Camel, & others, animal

I first read these lines, Mark Strand, in the snug
of the Falcon, in Stratford 'pon Avon,
a "scholars' room" off the entrance corridor’s
deep and darkly smoothed flag stones: the ground floor
should have smelt of sweetly stale wine, ginger
roast hog and crackling only at this point
in thyme it did not.

                               I came from Sheep Street
Oxfam, via Shakespeare’s birth place gift shop
where I had purchased Measure for Measure
and The Two Gentlemen of Verona
and, Cymbeline, the day before.

                                                     A good haul.
With some minutes to spare I read in “Man and
Camel: Praise for Mark Strand’s Poetry, and
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and, The King,
which I did find pretty good even if
stuck in the vein of The New Yorker,and,
I Had Been a Polar Explorer.

In both of which, despite the bibliography and
photograph adorning the cover, the hype:

I found familiar the rhyme and manner,
quite often like mine, only much better,
and that good, good last line, repeated here:

But when I raised my hand to say hello,
he took a step back, turned away, and started to fade
as longing fades until nothing is left of it.

A view of departing sorrow tied in
with Imogen, in Cymbeline, and Ovid’s figure
or, through the wrong end of a telescope,
sight of a loved one dwindling, rather than
longing that fades until nothing is left of it.

More a glancing off than a collision, then,
of coincidence among the multi-
tudinous vignettes uncovering a soul
on the brink of solitude.

                                  Cast your mind
back to Ariadne on her sad shore
watching Theseus depart; behind her
Dionysus’s chariot harnessed to a leopard.

But I, small i, do not feel entirely
stranded at this juncture, looking neither
near nor far for any source of comfort;
such times will come.  Today these cares to me
are an entirely separate matter
or, they seem so: I never am too sure.



The piece refers to Mark Strand's collection: Man and Camel, 2006.  Any apparent bitterness over the poet's dust jacket photograph, by the way, reflects more on my ugly-sisterish persona than any ill-will I might have to this urbane American about whom, beyond the second hand book, i know nothing at all!

◄ Coward

One of these days ►


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Greg Freeman

Mon 18th Jul 2016 09:58

I admire this poem for its relaxed, conversational approach, reminiscent of a lot of American poetry, although I am no expert. And then its mood and direction changes. The poet appears happy, but he is not counting his chickens. A wise man!

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