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Keeping Things Whole

Keeping Things Whole


by Mark Strand

Keeping Things Whole Isolation Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Line)

Quote #1

In a field
I am the absence
of field (1-3)

Wait. What? Our speaker opens the poem with lines that should shock and confuse us. He gives us a place and then he says he is the embodiment of what's missing in that place. He's both present and absent. Paradox alert! His body takes up space in the field and becomes the absence of the field. This is a matter of perspective, of course, but it's through the lens of our speaker that we get a sense of his isolation. Even alone in a field, he feels separated from the field and knows he can never become a part of the world he lives in.

Quote #2

Wherever I am
I am what is missing. (6-7)

Okay, so not only does this happen in a field, it happens anywhere and everywhere. Our speaker insists, "I am / I am" and yet he's insisting that he's "what is missing." He is, sure, but he's always alone, too. It's like he'll never be able to blend into nature, and his mere presence fractures the "wholeness" of wherever he is. Imagine seeing a splintered window with a big hole in the middle. Our speaker feels like that hole, shattering the world around him, and his only solution is to never stay still. Talk about a bummer.

Quote #3

I move
to keep things whole. (16-17)

The beauty of this poem is its brevity, but also its ability to capture complex emotions and ideas with such small words. The last line closes the poem down for us, but leaves us with a strange solution to the speaker's dilemma. It's like he'll just be moving through the world for the rest of his life, never really able to exist anywhere. In fact, it's unclear what his motivation is other than to avoid "breaking up" the world around him. How is that isolating? Not only does the world get out of the way when he arrives, but he feels compelled to "move / to keep things whole." So, anytime he gets anywhere, he ceases to exist. Yikes.

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