The Idea

For us, too, there was a wish to possess
Something beyond the world we know, beyond ourselves,
Beyond our power to imagine, something nevertheless
In which we might see ourselves; and this desire
Came always in passing, in waning light, and in such cold
That ice in the valley’s lakes cracked and rolled,
And blowing snow covered what earth we saw,
And scenes from the past, when they surfaced again,
Looked not like they had, but ghostly and white
Among false curves and hidden erasures;
And never once did we feel we were close
Until the night wind said. “Why do this,
Especially now? Go back to the place you belong”;
And there appeared, with its windows glowing, small,
In the distance, in the frozen reaches, a cabin;
And we stood before it, amazed at its being there,
And would have gone forward and opened the door,
And stepped into the glow and warmed ourselves there,
But it was ours by not being ours,
And should remain empty. That was the idea.

'The Idea' from The Continuous Life: Poems (Alfred A Knopf, 1990), Mark Strand 1990, used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a Division of Random House, Inc

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