Poet's Choice

By Robert Pinsky
Sunday, May 7, 2006

As an art to do with memory, which is to say the bridges between past and future, poetry often engages the afterlife. A poem memorized or even just recited by some future reader may be a kind of afterlife for the author. Dreams and imaginings of the afterlife embody how much we owe to the past, and how strongly or deeply we feel about it. Michael Collier in his new book Dark Wild Realm entitles a poem "Bardo," the Tibetan word denoting an intermediate state between lives or incarnations:

Dangerously frail is what his hand was like

when he showed up at our house,

three or four days after his death,

and stood at the foot of our bed.

Though we had expected him to appear

in some form, it was odd, the clarity

and precise decrepitude of his condition,

and how his hand, frail as it was,

lifted me from behind my head, up from the pillow,

so that no longer could I claim it was a dream,

nor deny that what your father wanted,

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