Thursday, February 07, 2013

More or Less

“Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.,
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.”
Mark Strand, Lines for Winter (for Ros Krauss)

This poem is in the second person: he is talking directly to the reader. It is a difficult subject – getting old and slowing down, something more noticeable in cold weather when there isn’t enough sun in the garden to warm your old bones. When my bones are cold, they don’t play much of a tune these days. Instead, I hear more of a weary low moan, creaking, and stiff. More grumpy than musical.

My bones and I often sit in the backyard on sunny mornings. The southern exposure of my back patio is often more comfortable in the mild winter sun than when the summer sun slants more directly in to heat up the concrete patch enclosed on three sides by the house. In the summer, the patio is only comfortable in the late afternoon when the sun has moved behind the tree on the hill. More cooling shade than scorching heat.

Although I always appreciate Mark Strand’s poetic images, his singing bones metaphor doesn’t inspire me. It is a strangely comforting thought however, to contemplate where I will be when I die. When I can no longer keep going, I don't want to imagine myself freezing under a cold winter sky. I'm thinking more warmth of daytime than cold of winter night.

I suppose if I could chose where and when to die, it would be sitting on my patio, as the warming sun seeps out of my bones, and finding - if not love - at least contentment with what I am. Unfortunately, I’m at the age where this is a relatively short window of time. I want to wait until I finish my morning cup of coffee, but before I have to go back inside to pee. More practical than poetic.

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