After a Death
Tomas Tranströmer wrote this beautiful poem, I think it was translated by Robert Fulton.
Once there was a shock
that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail.
It keeps us inside. It makes the TV pictures snowy.
It settles in cold drops on the telephone wires.
One can still go slowly on skis in the winter sun
through brush where a few leaves hang on
They resemble pages torn from old telephone directories.
Names swallowed by the cold.
It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.
Most impressive, I think, is that he only truly mentions death in the title of the poem. He refers to it as “a shock / that left behind a long, shimmering comet tail” but that’s it. Instead, he treats death tenderly – he acknowledges the suffering that is so mundane and simple, but that still creates a gaping ache in those left behind. Absolutely beautiful.