Mark Strand’s Tunnel, Family Fun and My Injured Hamstring


Does it bother you that I omitted the Oxford Comma in my title? I guess I’m newly old-fashioned about that. When I was in school that bit of punctuation was no longer popular. It’s come back in fashion in the last decade or so it seems. In some instances it makes sense to use a comma, for clarity or even for pace (that’s a poet breaking rules again!), and lord knows that it’s important to maintain clarity. It’s the difference between, “Do you want some honey?” and “Do you want some, honey?” Awkward.  However, when an article like “and” in the title above serves sufficiently to make things clear, or to provide some entertaining ambiguity, I say go with it. Artistic choice is not the same as ignorance of the rules. I don’t think you could explain that to a police officer though. “Sir, I know the speed limit is 65; it was my artistic choice to drive 90 mph.”

serial comma haters

So it’s another one of those rainy days and Mondays that always get you down, eh? Well, I happen to like both Mondays and rainy days, so when the two coincide it’s as if my own inner planets have aligned. This was one of those odd weekends in which I had Saturday off, worked Sunday and am back to my regular Monday down time. So while much of the world ran off to work this morning, I was able to get up at 8:30, putter around for coffee and an ice-pack and retire to the sofa where I could elevate my leg. 

It seems my return to running lately needed me to take a bit more care and thought than I have. I’ve aged a few years since the days when I used to run steps and intervals. I need more stretching after, and it seems I’ve aggravated my hamstring, or pigrope or some such thing. Ibuprofen and blue ice are my companions today, along with a bit ‘o Bailey’s in my coffee.

The Bauman boys were all here for at least half the weekend! God, even now that two of the three of them are taller than I am, they are still my boys in my head, and it’s always more homey when the house is full of their presence, tablets, laptops, guitars and dirty socks. Even after taking them an hour back home, having a good chat and dropping one off to meet a friend and reminding him that his grandmother hopes to see him in church in the morning. . . well, there really is nothing to compare that to, no metaphor that can more clearly explain the peaceful joy such experiences bring to me.

And so due to the weird work schedule, the aching injury and the nourishment of “dad-time,” I’m a bit behind in the poetry project. As you may recall, I’ve been again recording a poem each day for Poetry Month. No real plan about it. A few requests, but mostly just things I’ve newly discovered, or long wanted to record from poets who inspire me. So today and tomorrow I will be posting several readings in an effort to catch up.

From "Eating Poetry"

While I hobble about doing housework between recordings, I thought I’d start to share a few of my favorite readings from last year’s 2012 Poetry Month Project, “30 Days, 30 Poets.” This one is by Mark Strand, a poet whose work I fell in love with after reading “Eating Poetry” back in the day (some of the comments in that link are hilarious, by the way).

“The Tunnel” also explores dark spots, and basements, and primal emotions. Recently Tilly Bud of The Laughing Housewife blog was a big part of a comments discussion here on line endings and how they are interpreted in vocal readings. Find the discussion here. And so to add to that discussion I give you “The Tunnel” by Mark strand, and this little bit from The Dad Poet last April:

Mark Strand is one of those poets who reads his work the way I hear it in my head. If you listen to tonight’s reading while following along with the poem, and then you go to and follow along as you listen to the audio of him reading “From the Long Sad Party,” you will notice that he treats line endings the way I do. That wasn’t planned. I did not attempt to imitate the professor’s style. It just seemed laid out that way to me. I discovered the similarity after the fact, which was quite a boost for my ego when it comes to my own theories about line endings.

The Tunnel
by Mark Strand

A man has been standing
in front of my house
for days. I peek at him
from the living room
window and at night,
unable to sleep,
I shine my flashlight
down on the lawn.
He is always there.

After a while
I open the front door
just a crack and order
him out of my yard.
He narrows his eyes
and moans. I slam
the door and dash back
to the kitchen, then up
to the bedroom, then down.

I weep like a schoolgirl
and make obscene gestures
through the window. I
write large suicide notes
and place them so he
can read them easily.
I destroy the living
room furniture to prove
I own nothing of value.
When he seems unmoved
I decide to dig a tunnel
to a neighboring yard.
I seal the basement off
from the upstairs with
a brick wall. I dig hard
and in no time the tunnel
is done. Leaving my pick
and shovel below,

I come out in front of a house
and stand there too tired to
move or even speak, hoping
someone will help me.
I feel I’m being watched
and sometimes I hear
a man’s voice,
but nothing is done
and I have been waiting for days.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. slpmartin says:

    Well…this reading was one of my favorites so far…they’ve all been very good, but the poem’s tone and ending is very appealing to me the way you delivered it…just perfect to my way of thinking.


    1. Thank you, Charles! That was one of my favorites from last year. So I cannot count it as one of the ones for 2013! 🙂 unless I start cheating (which I might do anyway, but in a different way).

      The thing about the readings last year is that I spent a bit more time on them. The focus this year, loose as it may be, was more on spontaneity, which can be fun, and produce some lucky gems. But careful practice and multiple recordings really bring out readings like this one that I am proud of.

      Thank you so much!


  2. Here here for rainy days. Mondays I can sometimes do without, but not always. Being an English teacher’s daughter, I love any debate about commas and appreciate those who cry ‘poetry’ as a reason not to use one. Yay! I enjoyed reading your posts when wifi worked in Ireland—just a few occasions. Back in Vermont now and feeling kicked in the head, but happy to see spring on its way. Rest up that leg!


    1. Aw, thank you for trying to keep up on the Emerald Isle. I have close friends and family in Northern Ireland. Where did you go when you were there? (and yes, the jet lag is killer)


  3. John says:

    Hope your leg feels better soon….

    And, I’ve always been an Oxford comma fan.

    Really, really nice reading of a favorite poem of mine.


    1. Thank you! I like the Oxford comma in some instances. In others it feels redundant, but that has more to do with the way I was taught in school than anything else. Leg is a bit better by the way. I read earlier what you said about the Monkey! I will get back and respond. Taking a break though now. Ice pack!


  4. angryricky says:

    When I was in American academia, I used the last stanza of Eating Poetry as the quote under my signature block. (It seems that all English professors in America do this.)


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