I’m currently reading and loving Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith, this year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry to go with the theme of this month’s Poetry Project. I really feel like I could share any poem from this collection and so I just turned to a random page. This is the poem I found and it is a lovely one.
At Some Point, They’ll Want to Know What it Was Like
by Tracy K. Smith
There was something about how it felt. Not just the during —
That rough churn of bulk and breath, limb and tooth, the mass of us,
The quickness we made and rode — but mostly the before.
The waiting, knowing what would become. Pang. Pleasure then pain.
Then the underwater ride of after. Thrown-off like a coat over a bridge.
Somehow you’d just give away what you’d die without. You just gave.
The best was having nothing. No hope. No name in the throat.
And finding the breath in you, the body, to ask.
Last week, when I talked about how to love a poem, this is the kind of poem I meant when I said that you might love a poem you don’t fully understand. I can try and gleam meaning from this poem. I could try and come up with scenarios that made sense. I’m sure I could make a good case or two, but it doesn’t really matter. This poem sounds amazing. The last couplet is so filled with meaning, it is like a poem on its own.
Smith, Tracy K. “At Some Point, They’ll Want to Know What it Was Like.” Life on Mars. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2011.