Tuesday, September 8, 2020

All Souls’ by Rita Dove

All Souls’


Starting up behind them,

all the voices of those they had named:

mink, gander, and marmoset,

crow and cockatiel.

Even the duck-billed platypus,

of late so quiet in its bed,

sent out a feeble cry signifying

grief and confusion, et cetera.


Of course the world had changed

for good. As it would from now on

every day, with every twitch and blink.

Now that change was de rigueur,

man would discover desire, then yearn

for what he would learn to call

distraction. This was the true loss.

And yet in that first


unchanging instant,

the two souls

standing outside the gates

(no more than a break in the hedge;

how had they missed it?) were not

thinking. Already the din was fading.

Before them, a silence

larger than all their ignorance


yawned, and this they walked into

until it was all they knew. In time

they hunkered down to business,

filling the world with sighs—

these anonymous, pompous creatures,

heads tilted as if straining

to make out the words to a song

played long ago, in a foreign land.


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