The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“After Someone’s Death” is a poem of three stanzas of four lines each. As in many of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, this one begins with the appearance of a story, but by the end, the series of disconnected images do not seem to add up to a coherent narrative. It is the speaker’s visual (rather than organic) ordering of things that holds the poem’s various images together. The title suggests the discontinuity between life and death; it is the time after someone’s death that the poem considers. The speaker is not identified as the one who specifically experiences the death of another person, and this general detachment may allow the speaker to talk of a more universal condition. It is not uncommon for people to experience the death of another person. The reference to “us” in the first stanza may therefore refer to all people.

In the following two stanzas, the speaker addresses more directly a “you” in the poem. The other person is depicted in familiar situations such as shuffling on skis on a winter’s day and feeling his or her “heart throbbing.” In these depictions, the speaker seems to be consoling the other person by reminding him or her of activities in which the living and breathing human body can still engage.

The speaker assumes some responsibility for the emotional well-being of the person who has possibly experienced someone’s death. Tranströmer establishes the mood of this situation in the first stanza when...

(The entire section is 479 words.)