Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Poem After the Last Seven Words

“It is finished,” he said. You could hear him say it,
the words almost a whisper, then not even that,
but an echo so faint it seemed no longer to come
from him, but from elsewhere. This was the moment,
his final moment. “It is finished,” he said into a vastness
that led to an even greater vastness, and yet all of it
within him. He contained it all. That was the miracle,
to be both large and small in the same instant, to belike us, but more so, then finally to give up the ghost,
which is what happened. And from the storm that swirled
in his wake a formal nakedness took shape, the truth
of disguise and the mask of belief were joined forever.

The speaker concedes such scenery sometimes supplies false hope, especially in “the days of spring when the sky is filled / with the odor of lilac, when darkness becomes desire.” The poet knows nature’s beauty combined with human nature can act to conceal harsh realities, particularly our own mortality: “the world’s great gift for fiction gilds even / the dirt we walk on, and we feel we could live forever / while knowing of course that we can’t.” Indeed, although this long poem addresses the death of Christ, it also serves as a reminder to everyone of the inevitability of an end for all: “No one escapes. / Not even the man who believed he was chosen to do so.”
Therefore, in a certain sense, the narrative of this poem leads to one conclusion, already suggested in the poem’s opening lines: “The story of the end, of the last word / of the end, when told, is a story that never ends.” Although spoken about the sacrifice of Christ, Strand’s poem more importantly forces each of us to examine our own fate in the face of an uncertainty we all encounter. “Such is our plight,” the narrator declares, as we are left with the realization, “at last that nothing is more real than nothing.” By the last lines of the final section, the closing sentences of the collection, Strand’s narrator acknowledges and accepts his destined end, “what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand / has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart. / To that place, to the keeper of that place, I commit myself.”

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