A Piece of the Storm

“From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
From your book, saw it the moment it landed. That’s all
There was to it. No more than a solemn waking
To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that
Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back,
That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
“It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.”

[Strand, Mark, 1998.A Piece of the Storm. From Blizzard of One. Knopf: 20.]

For twenty years I have loved this poem, the first of many of Mark Strand’s poems and essays I have read and loved. I have the book, with the clipping of the newspaper article in which it first appeared to me tucked into it. I remember the stillness it left in its wake.

For me the “city of domes” was and will always be Kingston, Ontario, where I lived within sight and shadow of its cathedrals. I first read the poem in another city, sitting in a chair in a south-facing window with the domes of another city shadowed and sunlit in the distance.

I awoke this morning with the certainty that has risen in me for months:

It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.

2 comments to A Piece of the Storm

  • Sara Alhamlan

    Hello, I need a brief explanation of the poem if you may.
    Regards,
    Sara Alhamlan

  • alharris

    Hi Sara; As I understand it, the poem is about recognising an “opportune moment.” Our lives pass along in their ordinary way, but on occasion — usually in moments — we become aware of our mortality and connection to the larger cosmos, and feel an urgency, an invitation — or an opening, as Stand puts in — to understanding, to awareness, to contributing.

    Stand’s “City of Domes” is Pittsburgh, I believe. Stand dedicates the poem to American artist Sharon Horvath, whose work often captures the brevity of moments, the flow of temporal movement, and that sense of connection to the larger cosmos. Here’s a link to her website.

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