The professors of English have taken their gowns
to the laundry, have taken themselves to the fields.
Dreams of motion circle the Persian rug in a room
you were in.
On the beach the sadness of gramophones
deepens the ocean’s folding and falling.
It is yesterday. It is still yesterday.
So much of this piece seems to be about ‘dreams of motion’—there is perambulation implied or stated in every line, though it is not so leisurely as it is mesmerized—and even ‘mesmerism’ has too much agency to truly capture the state of semi-wakelessness that Strand crafts.
One moves through the piece, as I mentioned, in a kind of emotive haze whose disconnect is only heightened by the hard edges of certain phrases. Professors of English ‘tak[ing] their gowns/to the laundry’ ought to be a footfall on which the narrative of the poem could gather solid weight, but it is immediately undercut by the disembodiment of ‘have taken themselves to the fields’—as if the body, too, could be dropped somewhere and fetched later. The concreteness of ‘Persian rug’ and ‘gramophone’ are likewise compromised (so to speak) by a non-sequitor change of scene; the ‘dreams of motion’ that might lift the moving pattern off the rug into ghostly pavanes; and an ocean whose actions more closely mimic those of a nightshirt than a liquid element.
Here again, an echo: this time of Dickinson’s :
You cannot fold a Flood—
And put it in a Drawer—
Because the Winds would find it out—
And tell your Cedar Floor—
And while Strand’s poem doesn’t have the cheek of Dickinson’s, it surely shares s mysterious ambient awareness—that is, the awareness of the material without mind.
The sixth line of the piece reads to me like a Jungian archetype: as though it must’ve been etched on consciousness for millennia previous to human conception, sharing space with the primordial ooze. Is this truly ‘nostalgia,’ I wonder? Has the speaker created a space of images worthy of redefining the nostalgic?