THE NEXT TIME
BY Mark Strand
Nobody sees it happening, but the architecture of our time
Is becoming the architecture of the next time. And the dazzle
Of light upon the waters is as nothing beside the changes
Wrought therein, just as our waywardness means
Nothing against the steady pull of things over the edge.
Nobody can stop the flow, but nobody can start it either.
Time slips by; our sorrows do not turn into poems,
And what is invisible stays that way. Desire has fled,
Leaving only a trace of perfume in its wake,
And so many people we loved have gone,
And no voice comes from outer space, from the folds
Of dust and carpets of wind to tell us that this
Is the way it was meant to happen, that if we only knew
How long the ruins would last we would never complain.
Thre is something deeply wise and thought provoking about this poem. The poet, Mark Stand, has taken the familiar idea of time and its passage and said something interesting about passage itself. We know time is transition, a flow of moments here and gone, rinse and repeat. Yes, we think of time as dynamic. But do we think of it as an architecture, a ghost? I am intrigued by the way Strand envisions time as the inexorable tumble of what was into what is. That "then and now" coexist ever so briefly before what was is no more. This is a poem of moments. A poem that says be now, let go.
The last line of this poem is particularly poignant -
...if we only knew
how long the ruins would last we would never complain.
Measured hours lean into the next and the next. The architecture of time is beautiful - a vaulted hall. A long, columned esplanade forever heading into the distance. Strand writes of the pull - we cannot stop nor begin time's flow. The culmination of expired tomorrows. In time we abandon our monuments, let go our losses, release our loves. The ring of our footsteps swallowed in silence.
A trace of perfume. How long the ruins last.