Of course I believe in the soul.
Did you think I never loved anyone so strongly?
I think, rather, it is the souls in the other life
whose faith is tested: feeling themselves fade,
the memories of the living turning
from blood to milk, from milk to cloud.
They stand at the corners of the room,
the dead. They have learned to enter
soundlessly, not calling
attention to themselves. Why should they make trouble?
They are even more themselves now
than children. Do we think they should stop
being fallible, and foolish,
only because they are completed? Dead is not
an education, nor a rapture.
Did you think I had never been lifted?
Neither is it a door. Afterwards
is a lighted room
where the dead stand around, guests
at an awkward party: restless and longing
toward some visible guest, handsome and laughing,
as though through a silk window.
Because he is not yet old enough to see them clearly,
he sees if anything a fog-shaped
fog in the corner. Did you think I had never been there,
attentive, seen-through? I who am
only a voice to you now,
speaking from one world into another,
but we believe in one another.
Of course I believe. I choose to.
Did you think we had no choice?
Shakespeare invents his Lover, in the Sonnets.
The Psalms, too, postulate their god. Why should I not
make you real? There is enough
depletion to go around.
I choose instead to celebrate
the roundness of your absence.
It suits me
and it turns me kinder, knowing
this is what we have in common,
the others and I -- each being
twirling enclosed in time, each body
longing for its other
and singing, recklessly.
Stephen Tapscott, Professor of Literature, is a critic, poet and translator. His books of poetry include From the Book of Changes and Another Body. His most recent publication is a translation of work by the Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946.