Best Famous Desire Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Desire poems. This is a select list of the best famous Desire poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Desire poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of desire poems.

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Written by Edna St Vincent Millay | Create an image from this poem

Ode To Silence

 Aye, but she?
Your other sister and my other soul
Grave Silence, lovelier
Than the three loveliest maidens, what of her?
Clio, not you,
Not you, Calliope,
Nor all your wanton line,
Not Beauty's perfect self shall comfort me
For Silence once departed,
For her the cool-tongued, her the tranquil-hearted,
Whom evermore I follow wistfully,
Wandering Heaven and Earth and Hell and the four seasons through;
Thalia, not you,
Not you, Melpomene,
Not your incomparable feet, O thin Terpsichore, I seek in this great hall,
But one more pale, more pensive, most beloved of you all.
I seek her from afar, I come from temples where her altars are, From groves that bear her name, Noisy with stricken victims now and sacrificial flame, And cymbals struck on high and strident faces Obstreperous in her praise They neither love nor know, A goddess of gone days, Departed long ago, Abandoning the invaded shrines and fanes Of her old sanctuary, A deity obscure and legendary, Of whom there now remains, For sages to decipher and priests to garble, Only and for a little while her letters wedged in marble, Which even now, behold, the friendly mumbling rain erases, And the inarticulate snow, Leaving at last of her least signs and traces None whatsoever, nor whither she is vanished from these places.
"She will love well," I said, "If love be of that heart inhabiter, The flowers of the dead; The red anemone that with no sound Moves in the wind, and from another wound That sprang, the heavily-sweet blue hyacinth, That blossoms underground, And sallow poppies, will be dear to her.
And will not Silence know In the black shade of what obsidian steep Stiffens the white narcissus numb with sleep? (Seed which Demeter's daughter bore from home, Uptorn by desperate fingers long ago, Reluctant even as she, Undone Persephone, And even as she set out again to grow In twilight, in perdition's lean and inauspicious loam).
She will love well," I said, "The flowers of the dead; Where dark Persephone the winter round, Uncomforted for home, uncomforted, Lacking a sunny southern slope in northern Sicily, With sullen pupils focussed on a dream, Stares on the stagnant stream That moats the unequivocable battlements of Hell, There, there will she be found, She that is Beauty veiled from men and Music in a swound.
" "I long for Silence as they long for breath Whose helpless nostrils drink the bitter sea; What thing can be So stout, what so redoubtable, in Death What fury, what considerable rage, if only she, Upon whose icy breast, Unquestioned, uncaressed, One time I lay, And whom always I lack, Even to this day, Being by no means from that frigid bosom weaned away, If only she therewith be given me back?" I sought her down that dolorous labyrinth, Wherein no shaft of sunlight ever fell, And in among the bloodless everywhere I sought her, but the air, Breathed many times and spent, Was fretful with a whispering discontent, And questioning me, importuning me to tell Some slightest tidings of the light of day they know no more, Plucking my sleeve, the eager shades were with me where I went.
I paused at every grievous door, And harked a moment, holding up my hand,—and for a space A hush was on them, while they watched my face; And then they fell a-whispering as before; So that I smiled at them and left them, seeing she was not there.
I sought her, too, Among the upper gods, although I knew She was not like to be where feasting is, Nor near to Heaven's lord, Being a thing abhorred And shunned of him, although a child of his, (Not yours, not yours; to you she owes not breath, Mother of Song, being sown of Zeus upon a dream of Death).
Fearing to pass unvisited some place And later learn, too late, how all the while, With her still face, She had been standing there and seen me pass, without a smile, I sought her even to the sagging board whereat The stout immortals sat; But such a laughter shook the mighty hall No one could hear me say: Had she been seen upon the Hill that day? And no one knew at all How long I stood, or when at last I sighed and went away.
There is a garden lying in a lull Between the mountains and the mountainous sea, I know not where, but which a dream diurnal Paints on my lids a moment till the hull Be lifted from the kernel And Slumber fed to me.
Your foot-print is not there, Mnemosene, Though it would seem a ruined place and after Your lichenous heart, being full Of broken columns, caryatides Thrown to the earth and fallen forward on their jointless knees, And urns funereal altered into dust Minuter than the ashes of the dead, And Psyche's lamp out of the earth up-thrust, Dripping itself in marble wax on what was once the bed Of Love, and his young body asleep, but now is dust instead.
There twists the bitter-sweet, the white wisteria Fastens its fingers in the strangling wall, And the wide crannies quicken with bright weeds; There dumbly like a worm all day the still white orchid feeds; But never an echo of your daughters' laughter Is there, nor any sign of you at all Swells fungous from the rotten bough, grey mother of Pieria! Only her shadow once upon a stone I saw,—and, lo, the shadow and the garden, too, were gone.
I tell you you have done her body an ill, You chatterers, you noisy crew! She is not anywhere! I sought her in deep Hell; And through the world as well; I thought of Heaven and I sought her there; Above nor under ground Is Silence to be found, That was the very warp and woof of you, Lovely before your songs began and after they were through! Oh, say if on this hill Somewhere your sister's body lies in death, So I may follow there, and make a wreath Of my locked hands, that on her quiet breast Shall lie till age has withered them! (Ah, sweetly from the rest I see Turn and consider me Compassionate Euterpe!) "There is a gate beyond the gate of Death, Beyond the gate of everlasting Life, Beyond the gates of Heaven and Hell," she saith, "Whereon but to believe is horror! Whereon to meditate engendereth Even in deathless spirits such as I A tumult in the breath, A chilling of the inexhaustible blood Even in my veins that never will be dry, And in the austere, divine monotony That is my being, the madness of an unaccustomed mood.
This is her province whom you lack and seek; And seek her not elsewhere.
Hell is a thoroughfare For pilgrims,—Herakles, And he that loved Euridice too well, Have walked therein; and many more than these; And witnessed the desire and the despair Of souls that passed reluctantly and sicken for the air; You, too, have entered Hell, And issued thence; but thence whereof I speak None has returned;—for thither fury brings Only the driven ghosts of them that flee before all things.
Oblivion is the name of this abode: and she is there.
" Oh, radiant Song! Oh, gracious Memory! Be long upon this height I shall not climb again! I know the way you mean,—the little night, And the long empty day,—never to see Again the angry light, Or hear the hungry noises cry my brain! Ah, but she, Your other sister and my other soul, She shall again be mine; And I shall drink her from a silver bowl, A chilly thin green wine, Not bitter to the taste, Not sweet, Not of your press, oh, restless, clamorous nine,— To foam beneath the frantic hoofs of mirth— But savoring faintly of the acid earth, And trod by pensive feet From perfect clusters ripened without haste Out of the urgent heat In some clear glimmering vaulted twilight under the odorous vine .
Lift up your lyres! Sing on! But as for me, I seek your sister whither she is gone.
Written by Edgar Allan Poe | Create an image from this poem

The Bells


Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
II Hear the mellow wedding bells, Golden bells! What a world of happiness their harmony foretells! Through the balmy air of night How they ring out their delight! From the molten-golden notes, And an in tune, What a liquid ditty floats To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats On the moon! Oh, from out the sounding cells, What a gush of euphony voluminously wells! How it swells! How it dwells On the Future! how it tells Of the rapture that impels To the swinging and the ringing Of the bells, bells, bells, Of the bells, bells, bells,bells, Bells, bells, bells- To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells! III Hear the loud alarum bells- Brazen bells! What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells! In the startled ear of night How they scream out their affright! Too much horrified to speak, They can only shriek, shriek, Out of tune, In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire, In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire, Leaping higher, higher, higher, With a desperate desire, And a resolute endeavor, Now- now to sit or never, By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells! What a tale their terror tells Of Despair! How they clang, and clash, and roar! What a horror they outpour On the bosom of the palpitating air! Yet the ear it fully knows, By the twanging, And the clanging, How the danger ebbs and flows: Yet the ear distinctly tells, In the jangling, And the wrangling, How the danger sinks and swells, By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells- Of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells,bells, Bells, bells, bells- In the clamor and the clangor of the bells! IV Hear the tolling of the bells- Iron Bells! What a world of solemn thought their monody compels! In the silence of the night, How we shiver with affright At the melancholy menace of their tone! For every sound that floats From the rust within their throats Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people- They that dwell up in the steeple, All Alone And who, tolling, tolling, tolling, In that muffled monotone, Feel a glory in so rolling On the human heart a stone- They are neither man nor woman- They are neither brute nor human- They are Ghouls: And their king it is who tolls; And he rolls, rolls, rolls, Rolls A paean from the bells! And his merry bosom swells With the paean of the bells! And he dances, and he yells; Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the paean of the bells- Of the bells: Keeping time, time, time, In a sort of Runic rhyme, To the throbbing of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells- To the sobbing of the bells; Keeping time, time, time, As he knells, knells, knells, In a happy Runic rhyme, To the rolling of the bells- Of the bells, bells, bells: To the tolling of the bells, Of the bells, bells, bells, bells- Bells, bells, bells- To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.
Written by Robert Frost | Create an image from this poem

Fire and Ice

 Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice.
Written by Rudyard Kipling | Create an image from this poem

A Song of Travel

 Where's the lamp that Hero lit
 Once to call Leander home?
Equal Time hath shovelled it
 'Neath the wrack of Greece and Rome.
Neither wait we any more That worn sail which Argo bore.
Dust and dust of ashes close All the Vestal Virgin's care; And the oldest altar shows But an older darkness there.
Age-encamped Oblivion Tenteth every light that shone.
Yet shall we, for Suns that die, Wall our wanderings from desire? Or, because the Moon is high, Scorn to use a nearer fire? Lest some envious Pharaoh stir, Make our lives our sepulcher? Nay! Though Time with petty Fate Prison us and Emperors, By our Arts do we create That which Time himself devours-- Such machines as well may run 'Gainst the Horses of the Sun.
When we would a new abode, Space, our tyrant King no more, Lays the long lance of the road At our feet and flees before, Breathless, ere we overwhelm, To submit a further realm!
Written by James Tate | Create an image from this poem

Dream On

 Some people go their whole lives
without ever writing a single poem.
Extraordinary people who don't hesitate to cut somebody's heart or skull open.
They go to baseball games with the greatest of ease.
and play a few rounds of golf as if it were nothing.
These same people stroll into a church as if that were a natural part of life.
Investing money is second nature to them.
They contribute to political campaigns that have absolutely no poetry in them and promise none for the future.
They sit around the dinner table at night and pretend as though nothing is missing.
Their children get caught shoplifting at the mall and no one admits that it is poetry they are missing.
The family dog howls all night, lonely and starving for more poetry in his life.
Why is it so difficult for them to see that, without poetry, their lives are effluvial.
Sure, they have their banquets, their celebrations, croquet, fox hunts, their sea shores and sunsets, their cocktails on the balcony, dog races, and all that kissing and hugging, and don't forget the good deeds, the charity work, nursing the baby squirrels all through the night, filling the birdfeeders all winter, helping the stranger change her tire.
Still, there's that disagreeable exhalation from decaying matter, subtle but everpresent.
They walk around erect like champions.
They are smooth-spoken and witty.
When alone, rare occasion, they stare into the mirror for hours, bewildered.
There was something they meant to say, but didn't: "And if we put the statue of the rhinoceros next to the tweezers, and walk around the room three times, learn to yodel, shave our heads, call our ancestors back from the dead--" poetrywise it's still a bust, bankrupt.
You haven't scribbled a syllable of it.
You're a nowhere man misfiring the very essence of your life, flustering nothing from nothing and back again.
The hereafter may not last all that long.
Radiant childhood sweetheart, secret code of everlasting joy and sorrow, fanciful pen strokes beneath the eyelids: all day, all night meditation, knot of hope, kernel of desire, pure ordinariness of life seeking, through poetry, a benediction or a bed to lie down on, to connect, reveal, explore, to imbue meaning on the day's extravagant labor.
And yet it's cruel to expect too much.
It's a rare species of bird that refuses to be categorized.
Its song is barely audible.
It is like a dragonfly in a dream-- here, then there, then here again, low-flying amber-wing darting upward then out of sight.
And the dream has a pain in its heart the wonders of which are manifold, or so the story is told.
Written by Wallace Stevens | Create an image from this poem

Sunday Morning

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark Encroachment of that old catastrophe, As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings Seem things in some procession of the dead, Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound, Stilled for the passion of her dreaming feet Over the seas, to silent Palestine, Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.
2 Why should she give her bounty to the dead? What is divinity if it can come Only in silent shadows and in dreams? Shall she not find in the comforts of sun, In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else In any balm or beauty of the earth, Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven? Divinity must live within herself: Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow; Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued Elations when the forest blooms; gusty Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; All pleasures and all pains, remembering The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.
3 Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind He moved among us, as a muttering king, Magnificent, would move among his hinds, Until our blood, commingling, virginal, With heaven, brought such requital to desire The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be The blood of paradise? And shall the earth Seem all of paradise that we shall know? The sky will be much friendlier then than now, A part of labor and a part of pain, And next in glory to enduring love, Not this dividing and indifferent blue.
4 She says, "I am content when wakened birds, Before they fly, test the reality Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings; But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields Return no more, where, then, is paradise?" There is not any haunt of prophecy, Nor any old chimera of the grave, Neither the golden underground, nor isle Melodious, where spirits gat them home, Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm Remote as heaven's hill, that has endured As April's green endures; or will endure Like her rememberance of awakened birds, Or her desire for June and evening, tipped By the consummation of the swallow's wings.
5 She says, "But in contentment I still feel The need of some imperishable bliss.
" Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams And our desires.
Although she strews the leaves Of sure obliteration on our paths, The path sick sorrow took, the many paths Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love Whispered a little out of tenderness, She makes the willow shiver in the sun For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears On disregarded plate.
The maidens taste And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.
6 Is there no change of death in paradise? Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs Hang always heavy in that perfect sky, Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth, With rivers like our own that seek for seas They never find, the same receeding shores That never touch with inarticulate pang? Why set the pear upon those river-banks Or spice the shores with odors of the plum? Alas, that they should wear our colors there, The silken weavings of our afternoons, And pick the strings of our insipid lutes! Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, Within whose burning bosom we devise Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.
7 Supple and turbulent, a ring of men Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn Their boisterous devotion to the sun, Not as a god, but as a god might be, Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise, Out of their blood, returning to the sky; And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice, The windy lake wherein their lord delights, The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills, That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go The dew upon their feet shall manifest.
8 She hears, upon that water without sound, A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.
" We live in an old chaos of the sun, Or old dependency of day and night, Or island solitude, unsponsered, free, Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail Whistle about us their spontaneous cries; Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness; And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Abiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended wings.
Written by Pablo Neruda | Create an image from this poem

A Song Of Despair

 The memory of you emerges from the night around me.
The river mingles its stubborn lament with the sea.
Deserted like the dwarves at dawn.
It is the hour of departure, oh deserted one! Cold flower heads are raining over my heart.
Oh pit of debris, fierce cave of the shipwrecked.
In you the wars and the flights accumulated.
From you the wings of the song birds rose.
You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time.
In you everything sank! It was the happy hour of assault and the kiss.
The hour of the spell that blazed like a lighthouse.
Pilot's dread, fury of blind driver, turbulent drunkenness of love, in you everything sank! In the childhood of mist my soul, winged and wounded.
Lost discoverer, in you everything sank! You girdled sorrow, you clung to desire, sadness stunned you, in you everything sank! I made the wall of shadow draw back, beyond desire and act, I walked on.
Oh flesh, my own flesh, woman whom I loved and lost, I summon you in the moist hour, I raise my song to you.
Like a jar you housed infinite tenderness.
and the infinite oblivion shattered you like a jar.
There was the black solitude of the islands, and there, woman of love, your arms took me in.
There was thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.
There were grief and ruins, and you were the miracle.
Ah woman, I do not know how you could contain me in the earth of your soul, in the cross of your arms! How terrible and brief my desire was to you! How difficult and drunken, how tensed and avid.
Cemetery of kisses, there is still fire in your tombs, still the fruited boughs burn, pecked at by birds.
Oh the bitten mouth, oh the kissed limbs, oh the hungering teeth, oh the entwined bodies.
Oh the mad coupling of hope and force in which we merged and despaired.
And the tenderness, light as water and as flour.
And the word scarcely begun on the lips.
This was my destiny and in it was my voyage of my longing, and in it my longing fell, in you everything sank! Oh pit of debris, everything fell into you, what sorrow did you not express, in what sorrow are you not drowned! From billow to billow you still called and sang.
Standing like a sailor in the prow of a vessel.
You still flowered in songs, you still brike the currents.
Oh pit of debris, open and bitter well.
Pale blind diver, luckless slinger, lost discoverer, in you everything sank! It is the hour of departure, the hard cold hour which the night fastens to all the timetables.
The rustling belt of the sea girdles the shore.
Cold stars heave up, black birds migrate.
Deserted like the wharves at dawn.
Only tremulous shadow twists in my hands.
Oh farther than everything.
Oh farther than everything.
It is the hour of departure.
Oh abandoned one!
Written by Majeed Amjad | Create an image from this poem

A Twinkle in Her Eyes

Who can say

Why her eyes,

Those playmates of the hamlet where Beauty dwells,

Why her eyes smile that way ?


When notes arising from her soul,

That Temple-Palace of Music,

And traipsing through the land of glad tidings,

Mirthfully smothering the tinkling of their anklets,

Tip toe up, haltingly, secretively,

To the gates of her lips,

Why her gaze sparkles and smiles ?


Leaping over islands of silence

And wastelands of sealed lip pining,

When the silhouettes of desire

Come waltzing in

To nestle in an intimate moment’s nest,

Why her gaze sparkles and smiles ?


Her soul, that Sprite-Princess,

Neither lifts her veil

Nor voices her song

And when her heart’s ballad

Passes through distant, unexplored worlds

As the faint, lingering sounds of a flute …

Why her gaze sparkles and smiles !
Written by Nazim Hikmet | Create an image from this poem

Things I Didnt Know I Loved

 it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train 
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain 
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it 
I've never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I've loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can't wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
 and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before 
 and will be said after me

I didn't know I loved the sky 
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish 
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard 
the guards are beating someone again
I didn't know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest 
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish 
"the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves.
they call me The Knife.
lover like a young tree.
I blow stately mansions sky-high" in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief to a pine bough for luck I never knew I loved roads even the asphalt kind Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea Koktebele formerly "Goktepé ili" in Turkish the two of us inside a closed box the world flows past on both sides distant and mute I was never so close to anyone in my life bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé when I was eighteen apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take and at eighteen our lives are what we value least I've written this somewhere before wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play Ramazan night a paper lantern leading the way maybe nothing like this ever happened maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy going to the shadow play Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat with a sable collar over his robe and there's a lantern in the servant's hand and I can't contain myself for joy flowers come to mind for some reason poppies cactuses jonquils in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika fresh almonds on her breath I was seventeen my heart on a swing touched the sky I didn't know I loved flowers friends sent me three red carnations in prison I just remembered the stars I love them too whether I'm floored watching them from below or whether I'm flying at their side I have some questions for the cosmonauts were the stars much bigger did they look like huge jewels on black velvet or apricots on orange did you feel proud to get closer to the stars I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to say they were terribly figurative and concrete my heart was in my mouth looking at them they are our endless desire to grasp things seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad I never knew I loved the cosmos snow flashes in front of my eyes both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind I didn't know I liked snow I never knew I loved the sun even when setting cherry-red as now in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors but you aren't about to paint it that way I didn't know I loved the sea except the Sea of Azov or how much I didn't know I loved clouds whether I'm under or up above them whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois strikes me I like it I didn't know I liked rain whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train is it because I lit my sixth cigarette one alone could kill me is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue the train plunges on through the pitch-black night I never knew I liked the night pitch-black sparks fly from the engine I didn't know I loved sparks I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return 19 April 1962 Moscow
Written by Mark Strand | Create an image from this poem

The Story Of Our Lives

We are reading the story of our lives
which takes place in a room.
The room looks out on a street.
There is no one there, no sound of anything.
The tress are heavy with leaves, the parked cars never move.
We keep turning the pages, hoping for something, something like mercy or change, a black line that would bind us or keep us apart.
The way it is, it would seem the book of our lives is empty.
The furniture in the room is never shifted, and the rugs become darker each time our shadows pass over them.
It is almost as if the room were the world.
We sit beside each other on the couch, reading about the couch.
We say it is ideal.
It is ideal.
2 We are reading the story of our lives, as though we were in it, as though we had written it.
This comes up again and again.
In one of the chapters I lean back and push the book aside because the book says it is what I am doing.
I lean back and begin to write about the book.
I write that I wish to move beyond the book.
Beyond my life into another life.
I put the pen down.
The book says: "He put the pen down and turned and watched her reading the part about herself falling in love.
" The book is more accurate than we can imagine.
I lean back and watch you read about the man across the street.
They built a house there, and one day a man walked out of it.
You fell in love with him because you knew that he would never visit you, would never know you were waiting.
Night after night you would say that he was like me.
I lean back and watch you grow older without me.
Sunlight falls on your silver hair.
The rugs, the furniture, seem almost imaginary now.
"She continued to read.
She seemed to consider his absence of no special importance, as someone on a perfect day will consider the weather a failure because it did not change his mind.
" You narrow your eyes.
You have the impulse to close the book which describes my resistance: how when I lean back I imagine my life without you, imagine moving into another life, another book.
It describes your dependence on desire, how the momentary disclosures of purpose make you afraid.
The book describes much more than it should.
It wants to divide us.
3 This morning I woke and believed there was no more to to our lives than the story of our lives.
When you disagreed, I pointed to the place in the book where you disagreed.
You fell back to sleep and I began to read those mysterious parts you used to guess at while they were being written and lose interest in after they became part of the story.
In one of them cold dresses of moonlight are draped over the chairs in a man's room.
He dreams of a woman whose dresses are lost, who sits in a garden and waits.
She believes that love is a sacrifice.
The part describes her death and she is never named, which is one of the things you could not stand about her.
A little later we learn that the dreaming man lives in the new house across the street.
This morning after you fell back to sleep I began to turn the pages early in the book: it was like dreaming of childhood, so much seemed to vanish, so much seemed to come to life again.
I did not know what to do.
The book said: "In those moments it was his book.
A bleak crown rested uneasily on his head.
He was the brief ruler of inner and outer discord, anxious in his own kingdom.
" 4 Before you woke I read another part that described your absence and told how you sleep to reverse the progress of your life.
I was touched by my own loneliness as I read, knowing that what I feel is often the crude and unsuccessful form of a story that may never be told.
"He wanted to see her naked and vulnerable, to see her in the refuse, the discarded plots of old dreams, the costumes and masks of unattainable states.
It was as if he were drawn irresistably to failure.
" It was hard to keep reading.
I was tired and wanted to give up.
The book seemed aware of this.
It hinted at changing the subject.
I waited for you to wake not knowing how long I waited, and it seemed that I was no longer reading.
I heard the wind passing like a stream of sighs and I heard the shiver of leaves in the trees outside the window.
It would be in the book.
Everything would be there.
I looked at your face and I read the eyes, the nose, the mouth .
5 If only there were a perfect moment in the book; if only we could live in that moment, we could being the book again as if we had not written it, as if we were not in it.
But the dark approaches to any page are too numerous and the escapes are too narrow.
We read through the day.
Each page turning is like a candle moving through the mind.
Each moment is like a hopeless cause.
If only we could stop reading.
"He never wanted to read another book and she kept staring into the street.
The cars were still there, the deep shade of trees covered them.
The shades were drawn in the new house.
Maybe the man who lived there, the man she loved, was reading the story of another life.
She imagine a bare parlor, a cold fireplace, a man sitting writing a letter to a woman who has sacrificed her life for love.
" If there were a perfect moment in the book, it would be the last.
The book never discusses the causes of love.
It claims confusion is a necessary good.
It never explains.
It only reveals.
6 The day goes on.
We study what we remember.
We look into the mirror across the room.
We cannot bear to be alone.
The book goes on.
"They became silent and did not know how to begin the dialogue which was necessary.
It was words that created divisions in the first place, that created loneliness.
They waited they would turn the pages, hoping something would happen.
They would patch up their lives in secret: each defeat forgiven because it could not be tested, each pain rewarded because it was unreal.
They did nothing.
" 7 The book will not survive.
We are the living proof of that.
It is dark outside, in the room it is darker.
I hear your breathing.
You are asking me if I am tired, if I want to keep reading.
Yes, I am tired.
Yes, I want to keep reading.
I say yes to everything.
You cannot hear me.
"They sat beside each other on the couch.
They were the copies, the tired phantoms of something they had been before.
The attitudes they took were jaded.
They stared into the book and were horrified by their innocence, their reluctance to give up.
They sat beside each other on the couch.
They were determined to accept the truth.
Whatever it was they would accept it.
The book would have to be written and would have to be read.
They are the book and they are nothing else.