Mark Strand: Darkening to Darkening

When The Vacation Is Over For Good

It will be strange
Knowing at last it couldn’t go on forever,
The certain voice telling us over and over
That nothing would change,

And remembering too,
Because by then it will all be done with, the way
Things were, and how we had wasted time as though
There was nothing to do,

When, in a flash
The weather turned, and the lofty air became
Unbearably heavy, the wind strikingly dumb
And our cities like ash,

And knowing also,
What we never suspected, that it was something like summer
At its most august except that the nights were warmer
And the clouds seemed to glow,

And even then,
Because we will not have changed much, wondering what
Will become of things, and who will be left to do it
All over again,

And somehow trying,
But still unable, to know just what it was
That went so completely wrong, or why it is
We are dying.

—Mark Strand, Collected Poems


Reading this poem again by Mark Strand I’m reminded of our darkening world as it begins to decay into ruinous waste at the hands of its most destructive child, humanity. If ever there were a time that needed change it is ours, and yet I, too, as Strand above seek it and yet do not find it. Instead the change is not of human making other than the destruction we’ve invented and perpetrated upon the earth, source and resource of all we are have been. Humans are a stain upon the face of earth, and like other non-human creatures that have come and gone we too inevitably will enter that abyss from which there is no return. As John David Ebert in The Age of Catastrophe: Disaster and Humanity in Modern Times reminds us,

The present conquest of the earth by these cosmotechnologies facilitated and realized by governments and multinational corporations is the inevitable outcome of those first principles that were constitutive parts of a World Picture in which the earth becomes the plaything of human beings using the spark of God to help them conquer it.

That we have become mere spectators in a spectacle of chaos and ruin is apparent to many, and yet the rich and their minions across the planet seek only to aggravate this accelerating process through reliance of advanced hypertechnological systems that are becoming more and more autonomous and beyond human control. As climate change and catastrophe become all to apparent within a few decades we will see a world slowly dying before our eyes, see mass migrations from the heat belts where thermal inertia and heat death rule. As Paul Virilio has written:

The twenty-first century will be the century of mass migrations. A billion people  will move. The whole world situation will be disrupted. Disrupted by the crisis in localization. The old societies were connected to a territory, a native land. Today they’re adrift due to the delocalization of jobs and never-ending conflicts. There is also, clearly, the major issue of climate: the disappearance of archipelagoes, submersion of coastlines. This means all of history is on the move again. All of history is taking to the road. A billion people moving over half a century -that’s never been seen before… It’s almost as though the sky, and the clouds in it, and the pollution of it, were making their entry into history.

—Native Land – Stop Eject

As the oceans seep in from the dark, as the cities drift below the sullen green waves, as humans seek out the last vetiges of dry land and the mountainous caverns of sky and stars the final decolonization of the earth will begin.

A dark and private weather settles down on everything. It is colder and the dreams wither away.

—Mark Strand, The Man In The Mirror

Maybe the earth like a young mother will mourn the passing of her children, wander among the stars silent and alone, given over to the simplicity of tears where the travails of light break across the dark like whispers of a forgotten thought.

We have done what we wanted. We have discarded dreams, preferring the heavy industry of each other, and we have welcomed grief and called ruin the impossible habit to break.

—Mark Strand, Coming To This

Like automatons assuming our endless tasks we have accrued the last remnants of profit from the dead in their dead worlds. The void will not give up its dead for they have no need of us nor of the nothingness we are. Children of habit we do not know, we do not see, we do not hear the tolling bell of time ringing upon the last dawn’s horizon. Mindless we have allowed our bodies to enter the servitude of dead men, sleepers of time who will vanish without return.

…there is the sleep that demands I lie down and be fitted to the dark that comes upon me like another skin in which I shall never be found, out of which I shall never appear.

—Mark Strand, The Sleep

In the end nothing will remain. The mirrored world of thought dispersed. The erosion of all we’ve been and could broken. Silence alone will remain. Who will inherit the earth? Bones.

Everything dims. The future is not what it used to be. The graves are ready. The dead shall inherit the dead.

—Mark Strand, The Way It Is

Did you really think it would be different? All this bleakness and ruin and chaos and darkness other than it is and will be on a planet growing long and cold and indifferent.

 

 

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