“Transmigration” is a mid-length narrative poem with irregular stanza lengths and meter. The poem’s title suggests the transmigration of the soul, the theological idea that after death one’s soul migrates to exist in another creature, human or animal. In the case of Brendan Galvin’s poem, the transmigration referred to is of a middle-aged man who jogs to lose a paunch gained from overeating. The jogger has “sat out easy rains” and has not worked very hard at becoming healthier. Ironically, instead of becoming healthier, he dies on the beach, and his soul enters a seagull. The title also introduces the concept of migration, an idea that Galvin plays with throughout the poem. The onset of winter is traditionally associated with death, but it is also the time when birds migrate. Thus, Galvin conjoins the idea of a soul’s migration after death with a bird’s natural instinct to migrate when the days grow shorter. The poem begins precisely at the moment of death as the jogger’s soul leaves his body and reawakens in the seagull.
Much of the poem charts the orientation of the soul to its new body. The man, now a bird, is afraid and lands immediately on a tree, its “new feet gripping.” Getting in touch with “instinct,” however, he is able to acclimate himself to the new body. The man enjoys the new perspective, which is both visual and spiritual. Visually, the soul sees things differently, looking “for the first time” at the world...
(The entire section is 447 words.)