The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Thirty (Strand)

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Keeping Things Whole
“Keeping Things Whole,” is one of Mark Strand’s most frequently anthologized poems, and it’s easy to see why. In so few words, he accomplishes not only his own fascinating meditation on self, emptiness, identity, and more; in koan-like fashion, he also invites readers to their own meditations on these subjects. The speaker may embrace change and continue moving to keep things whole, but we are left feeling that, however clever, this is not the entire answer. The emptiness that has become the speaker’s identity moves forward in space and time, impacting, always, the next field and leaving behind it not only a return to wholeness but a trail of questions too.
Photo of Mark Strand by Lilo Raymond
Keeping Things Whole
In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body’s been.We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

From Sleeping with One Eye Open, Also found in Selected Poems

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