All Souls

Saskia Hamilton


Chemical burring of the tongue.

Good to be on the other side 

of treatment for now. 

We scroll on. Would a codex restore 

the balance of recto and verso. 

Take up the book. Dreams luminous 

in anticipation of the alarm.

When it comes, how dark and modest waking is.


Reading the news, waiting for sleep or the night to pass, tap of rain on the window unit, desk of unfinished work in the next room. X the painter has died. Images in my hand of the enormous faces she painted, the cause of death in narrative paragraphs, all the world of representation compressed on the screen.

Why retell the stories of those before us? They already spoke them, or held their tongues—fell silent. A lifetime to overcome the prohibition not to. But the lens is all wrong these days. I’d thought it a sunset, a sketch, told again as all sunsets are. To say something sincerely yet inauthentically is the danger. And Eliot struck “Ode” from the first U.S. edition of his poems to prevent his mother from seeing it.…

What prompted that thought? Body does not want to sit up just yet. One two one two go the taps. The child stirs—light herewith emitted in the dark.



In search of a medicinal hour. Hortus:

sitting at the café with apple cake

while garden-goers stir the gravel path.

Compacted here, luxuriant trained growth

of teaberry, gentian, trumpet vine,

comfrey, field restharrow, &c.

Our apothecary ancestor with his liber ingressus

token entered here to gather the herbs

for infusions that were to aid the unwell

caught in the far gone far alone glance

of mortality, moving the clock hands

from one hour into the hour.

Who is there now to announce the triumph

of hope? But by and by, after

seeds have been scattered, stirred and covered over,

blossomed, gathered, dried, crushed. Hot, late afternoon,

bees crossing bees and white butterflies.



“Death closes all.” Yes. But were they granted

anything, none know beforehand,

breath going out for a decade,

returning in a century,

while those gathered there fall out of

their own pockets, or is it

the count and rhythm, unable

to fix a mark or a lover’s thought

at the moment when the face of the encounter

became knowledge completed.

Saskia Hamilton was the author of four poetry collections, including Corridor and All Souls, forthcoming in October. She edited several works, including The Letters of Robert Lowell and The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979: Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Lowell, and Their Circle.
Originally published:
June 12, 2023


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