Blant ting jeg har fått ut av min nett-tilkoblede tilværelse er mailinglisten min en av de mest udiskutabelt positive. Uovertruffen kilde til morsomme og spennende diskusjoner, til stadig gjenkjennelse men like ofte forundring, og til etterlengtede små påminnelser om at det finnes intelligent liv der ute, og at USA (der de fleste av medlemmene hører hjemme) hverken er så endimensjonalt, så overfladisk, så entydig eller så lettavfeielig som hertillandsværende medier innimellom kan antyde.

En av de mest fabelaktige bekjentskapene fra denne sammenhengen introduserte meg (og resten av listen) for Billy Collins for en tid siden, og det er en tjeneste jeg ikke ser noen grunn til å ikke herved sende videre til eventuelle lesere.

The Afterlife

While you are preparing for sleep, brushing your teeth,
or riffling through a magazine in bed,
the dead of the day are setting out on their journey.

They are moving off in all imaginable directions,
each according to his own private belief,
and this is the secret that silent Lazarus would not reveal:
that everyone is right, as it turns out.

You go to the place you always thought you would go,
the place you kept lit in an alcove in your head.

Some are being shot up a funnel of flashing colors
into a zone of light, white as January sun.
Others are standing naked before a forbidding judge who sits
with a golden ladder on one side, a coal chute on the other.

Some have already joined the celestial choir
and are singing as if they have been doing this forever,
while the less inventive find themselves stuck
in a big air-conditioned room full of food and chorus girls.

Some are approaching the apartment of the female God,
a woman in her forties with short wiry hair
and glasses hanging from her neck by a string.
With one eye she regards the dead through a hole in her door.

There are those who are squeezing into the bodies
of animals – eagles and leopards – and one trying on
the skin of a monkey like a tight suit,
ready to begin another life in a more simple key,
while others float off into some benign vagueness,
little units of energy heading for the ultimate elsewhere.

There are even a few classicists being led to an underworld
by a mythological creature with a beard and hooves.
He will bring them to the mouth of a furious cave
guarded over by Edith Hamilton and her threeheaded dog.

The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins
wishing they could return so they could learn Italian
or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain.
They wish they could wake in the morning like you
and stand at a window examining the winter trees,
every branch traced with the ghost writing of snow.

(Billy Collins)

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