Our Masterpiece Is the Private Life

For Jules 


Is there something down by the water keeping itself from us,

Some shy event, some secret of the light that falls upon the deep,

Some source of sorrow that does not wish to be discovered yet?

Why should we care? Doesn’t desire cast its rainbows over the coarse porcelain

Of the world’s skin and with its measures fill the air? Why look for more?


And now, while the advocates of awfulness and sorrow

Push their dripping barge up and down the beach, let’s eat

Our brill, and sip this beautiful white Beaune.

True, the light is artificial, and we are not well-dressed.

So what. We like it here. We like the bullocks in the field next door,

We like the sound of wind passing over grass. The way you speak,

In that low voice, our late night disclosures . . . why live

For anything else? Our masterpiece is the private life.


Standing on the quay between the Roving Swan and the Star Immaculate,

Breathing the night air as the moment of pleasure taken

In pleasure vanishing seems to grow, its self-soiling

Beauty, which can only be what it was, sustaining itself

A little longer in its going, I think of our own smooth passage

Through the graded partitions, the crises that bleed,

Into the ordinary, leaving us a little more tired each time,

A little more distant from the experiences, which, in the old days,

Held us captive for hours. The drive along the winding road

Back to the house, the sea pounding against the cliffs,

The glass of whiskey on the table, the open book, the questions,

All the day’s rewards waiting at the doors of sleep . . .

Mark Strand (Canada-USA, 1934-2014) from: Blizzard of One: Poems,Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1998, 978190413

On the cover: Harmony Korine (USA, 1973-), VHS Painting, 2010, Collection agnès b., Paris

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