All Souls’

This reading was recorded by Alessandro Mistrorigo at Phonodia LAB in Venice, Italy, on the 18th of April, 2014.

Read by Rita Dove on 18 April 2014

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 has 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, pompus creatures,
heads tilted as if straining
to make out the words to a song
played long ago, in a foreign land.

from American Smooth (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., © 2004 by Rita Dove). All rights reserved. Copying to other websites or any kind of reprint is a violation of international copyright laws and strictly forbidden.

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