Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mark Strand: "For Jessica, My Daughter"

in tribute
Mark Strand

Tonight I walked,
lost in my own meditation,
and was afraid,
not of the labyrinth
that I have made of love and self
but of the dark and faraway.
I walked, hearing the wind in the trees,
feeling the cold against my skin,
but what I dwelled on
were the stars blazing
in the immense arc of sky.

Jessica, it is so much easier
to think of our lives,
as we move under the brief luster of leaves,
loving what we have,
than to think of how it is
such small beings as we
travel in the dark
with no visible way
or end in sight.

Yet there were times I remember
under the same sky
when the body's bones became light
and the wound of the skull
opened to receive
the cold rays of the cosmos,
and were, for an instant,
themselves the cosmos,
there were times when I could believe
we were the children of stars
and our words were made of the same
dust that flames in space,
times when I could feel in the lightness of breath
the weight of a whole day
come to rest.

But tonight
it is different.
Afraid of the dark
in which we drift or vanish altogether,
I imagine a light
that would not let us stray too far apart,
a secret moon or mirror,
a sheet of paper,
something you could carry
in the dark
when I am away.

"For Jessica, My Daughter" by Mark Strand. Text as published in Collected Poems (Knopf, 2014).

Curator's note: Mark Strand, one of our mindfulness poets and one-time Poet Laureate of the U.S., died on Saturday at the age of 80. He died in his daughter Jessica's home not long after entering hospice care, suffering from liposarcoma. Here are two quotes for us to remember him by. First, "The future is always beginning now." And, "Ink runs from the corners of my mouth. / There is no happiness like mine. / I have been eating poetry."

Art credit: Detail from photograph of Mark Strand by Ezequiel Zaidenwerg.


  1. Mark Strand came to my classroom at La Jolla High School- to visit his daughter- Jessica- and spend time with my students.
    Jessica had won a National Poetry Contest that year.Both Mark and Jessica were "sweet" in nature- unassuming- and yet "brilliant" in their reading of the world. Jessica- I am sorry to learn of the passing of your father- I am 80 now- and share
    the "look back" sort of life we live in this decade. I still have the seed pearl necklace you gave me so may years ago!
    Maria Wheatcroft Lipton

  2. Thank you for posting this. Mark Strand is one of my two main influences, along with Laurie Anderson, both of whom I encountered in the early 1980's. I thank you and them for giving the spoken word and poetry value in our world. Taylor Jane Green (The Swan Album).

  3. Beautiful through the sadness I feel in this. I especially love these lines:

    there were times when I could believe
    we were the children of stars
    and our words were made of the same
    dust that flames in space,


Thank you for participating respectfully in this blog's community of readers.