Answer to Simmias by J. Morris

Simmias, if I remember rightly, has fears and misgivings
whether the soul, being in the form of harmony,
although a fairer and diviner thing than the body,
may not perish first.
Plato, Phaedo

This happened to me once: I wrote a chaconne
for orchestra (these were my student days),
I scored the thing, took pains, and heard my phrases
begin to soar above their grounded bass.
And then I lost the pages, God knows how.
Those precious, scribbled staves just disappeared
beneath the waves of senior-year disorder.
I wasn’t daunted, though.  I could still hear it,
the music in my “head,” my “thoughts,” my “mind”:
unscientific terms: had I dropped dead
that day, the probing scalpels would have failed
to find a single quaver in my brain.
Yet they were there, I heard it, wrote it down
again – improved it, even, took it closer
to what I had in mind.

Now please imagine
your soul as music. You live out your years
becoming rhythm, harmony, the structure
of what you are. Then comes the final measure,
the whole-note rest of death. The printed score –
your blood and bones and breath and DNA –
will decompose, will disappear as quickly
as my first-draft chaconne. What of the music?
How can you live again? A greater mind
must needs remember you and let you play
forever, each thematic line perfected
and finally sounding true. Heaven is sounding
impossible these days, with every quantum
of matter mathematically weighed and accounted for.
But it’s no more, or less, miraculous
than what I have in mind.

And so, da capo:
the choirmaster smiles and gives the downbeat,
the angels pluck you out upon their lyres
while voices far more absolute, more lovely
than any you imagined sing the burden,
as light as life. Simmias, let us pray:
Remember us, O Lord. Keep us in mind.

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