The Couple Poem by Mark Strand

Mark Strand

Prince Edward Island, Canada

The Couple

Rating: 4.0

The scene is a midtown station.
The time is 3 a.m.
Jane is alone on the platform,
Humming a requiem.

She leans against the tiles.
She rummages in her purse
For something to ease a headache
That just keeps getting worse.

She went to a boring party,
And left without her date,
Now she's alone on the platform,
And the train is running late.

The subway station is empty,
Seedy, sinister, gray.
Enter a well-dressed man
Slowly heading Jane's way.

The man comes up beside her:
"Excuse me, my name is John,
I hope I haven't disturbed you.
If I have, I'll be gone.

'I had a dream last night
That I would meet somebody new.
After twenty-four hours of waiting,
I'm glad she turned out to be you."

Oh where are the winds of morning?
Oh where is love at first sight?
A man comes out of nowhere.
Maybe he's Mr. Right.

How does one find the answer,
If one has waited so long?
A man comes out of nowhere,
He's probably Mr. Wrong.

Jane imagines the future,
And almost loses heart.
She sees herself as Europe
And John as Bonaparte.

They walk to the end of the platform.
They stumble down to the tracks.
They stand among the wrappers
And empty cigarette packs.

The wind blows through the tunnel.
They listen to the sound.
The way it growls and whistles
Holds them both spellbound.

Jane stares into the dark:
"It's a wonder sex can be good
When most of the time it comes down to
Whether one shouldn't or should."

John looks down at his watch:
"I couldn't agree with you more,
And often it raises the question —
‘What are you saying it for?'"

They kneel beside each other
As if they were in a trance,
Then Jane lifts up her dress
And John pulls down his pants.

Everyone knows what happens,
Or what two people do
When one is on top of the other
Making a great to-do.

The wind blows through the tunnel
Trying to find the sky.
Jane is breathing her hardest,
And John begins to sigh:

'I'm a Princeton professor
God knows what drove me to this.
I have a wife and family;
I've known marital bliss.

'But things were turning humdrum,
And I felt I was being false.
Every night in our bedroom
I wished I were someplace else."

What is the weather outside?
What is the weather within
That drives these two to excess
And into the arms of sin?

They are the children of Eros.
They move, but not too fast.
They want to extend their pleasure,
They want the moment to last.

Too bad they cannot hear us.
too bad we can't advise.
Fate that brought them together
Has yet another surprise.

Just as they reach the utmost
Peak of their endeavor,
An empty downtown local
Separates them forever.

An empty downtown local
Screams through the grimy air
A couple dies in the subway;
Couples die everywhere.


Mark Strand

Prince Edward Island, Canada
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