Afterlife; Spring; Then


i.m. Elizabeth McFarland


It must be easier if one believes
The soul’s immortal, and survives someplace,
Say, in Heaven, where it keeps its face
And to such singularity each cleaves,

Or, as in childhood, when I used to think
That souls were points of light in the Milky Way,
Casting their sight on us, as though to say
Between two worlds there’s but a casual link,

And whenever someone died a brand-new star
Would suddenly appear in the distant sky,
There’d be no dissolution, then, to die,
Existing ever, a grain of light, afar—

But you and I, free of such superstition,
Lived and loved each other with each breath,
And now I know the love that transcends death,
Keeping you in memory’s inner vision,

But where is personhood when one is gone?
As body is reclaimed by earth, or flame,
Does Death’s sharp saber-tooth exempt a name
So those who loved you feel you linger on?

You, when young, dreamed you’d become a tree,
Where words, gathered in your blossoming
Branches, birdlike, bickered. You made them sing,
As now, in verse alive with bel esprit

Don’t fade into your photos . . . for you lift
My spirits, those of friends, and of all who feel
The joy, the wit, the passion your lines reveal,
So like your love, an imperishable gift.


All the holes
in hollow trees
and crevices

beneath the eaves
are teeming now
with snouts

of small squirrels
and the imperative
craws of featherless

starlings ready
ready ready to devour
devour devour devour the world.



A familiar room with sunlight leaping
Between the shutters to the bed,
The gleam of beams importunate on your head,
Your fine hair bronzed and silvered and your white
Throat lain back, lips a little open,
The wordless silence, broken, broken
By the moan of that delight
By which the world was made.
When the blaze our bodies kindled
Flared in joy, then dwindled
Till the flame no longer played
As we sank like falling stars—

Now, lying alone, in single
Reverie, I’d pierce the dark
With memory, as though recalled
Exultation could make embers
Of now unappeasable desire,
Thinking of you, now as then,
Could bring back that fire.