“How many times…”

How many times do I talk with my dead?
And their hands are rough and wrinkled, and I ask them
things and their faces are a memory of sorrows, and the night
threatens us in its tempestuous fall, but I talk with
my dead which perhaps are yours, and I cover them, saturate
them with my silent sorrow and with my tear-drenched eyes.
I always bid farewell to that body,
to those eyes that seem like a river
of silence.
And this is how I learn to tell them things,
to promise them a blossoming, flowery garden,
a history, a beginning, a promise,
and it is so incredible how I love this dead one, who is not mine,
who is not a cadaver either, but a waterfall, a dialogue,
a shore to be crossed.

Read by Alicia Partnoy. Copyright 1998 by Marjorie Agosín. Reprinted from An Absence of Shadows, published by White Pine Press, with permission from Marjorie Agosín. Translated by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman.

This poem was originally read in the On Being episode “Laying the Dead to Rest.”