Death poems

On dVerse Poets Pub Gayle sets the challenge :  To write in haiku or tanka style, to the theme of Jisei (Japanese death poems).

Gayle also says, “In ancient Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures, a practice was used at the time of death to capture the last words spoken. This practice was called jisei (in Japan) or death poem and is the “farewell poem to life.” Jisei was written by monks, samurai, the literate and poets of these cultures. One of the earliest recorded jisei dates to 686 C.E. (Common Era) or in Christian terms, B.C. (before Christ) with the death of Prince Otsu who was the son of Emperor Temmu of Japan.”

 

JAPANESE DEATH POEMS – tanka

 

I hear the sea sing

in my veins, of homecoming.

Save your salty tears

 

for life and its sorry tales,

not me. I am going home.

 

~~~

 

This vain, heavy shell

I no longer need, fading

softly like daylight

 

surrenders to night, sighing

soft promises of return.

 

~~~

 

This shell will return

to its womb. My sinews will

turn into roots, limbs

 

into tree-trunks. And my song

will trill out from the tree tops.

 

~~~

 

Soon, I will be rain,

falling on seeds, springing them

into life. Lusty,

 

fecund, virile, alive. Death

is a mere wisp of a veil.

 

~~~

An Old Woman

by Arun Kolatkar

An old woman grabs
hold of your sleeve
and tags along.

She wants a fifty paise coin.
She says she will take you
to the horseshoe shrine.

You’ve seen it already.
She hobbles along anyway
and tightens her grip on your shirt.

She won’t let you go.
You know how old women are.
They stick to you like a burr.

You turn around and face her
with an air of finality.
You want to end the farce.

When you hear her say,
‘What else can an old woman do
on hills as wretched as these?’

You look right at the sky.
Clear through the bullet holes
she has for her eyes.

And as you look on
the cracks that begin around her eyes
spread beyond her skin.

And the hills crack.
And the temples crack.
And the sky falls

with a plateglass clatter
around the shatter proof crone
who stands alone.

And you are reduced
to so much small change
in her hand.

~~~

Dawn breaking

~~~

She looked at herself in the mirror
and shimmied a little, smiling at her
wan face, saying, “you look lovely!”
As though in apology to her own
reflection that didn’t smile back.
But replied in her head, “you liar!”
Her heart dropped into her belly,
that sea of tremulousness. “I love you,”
she cried in desperate defiance.

“You sentimental fool!” Old, hazy
voices rose from forgotten graves.
“You are not real.” She railed at
their fuzzy persistence. “Who do
you think you are?” Old shame
surfaced like dirty foam. “You’re
lies I believed for far too long.”
“Don’t delude yourself.” “I am
truth. I am light. I am pure love.”

She leaned toward her reflection
blurred through the tears, kissed
it. Her lover, her eternal friend.
It glowed and grew. It smiled back
through the misty glass. The sun
rose from the sea of grey, lifted
her heart, gave it wings. Light
pulsated through her veins, “Hello
Sunshine!” Her eyes twinkled back.

~~~

dVerse Poets Pub hosted by Victoria this week asks us to write a poem in conversation style.

This being a woman

.

This being a woman
is a holding back

words caught in the throat
pebbles, rocks, boulders,
but isn’t it the stones
that make the river sing?


This being a woman
is a flowing around

a liquid grace,
a sinuous tenacity,
what obstacle has ever
stopped a river in flow?


This being a woman
is a relearning

no matter how much
the world breaks you,
were you not always
unbreakable and whole?


This being a woman
is a discovering

amidst a world that
denies you your dignity,
finding a world inner,
pure, precious, powerful.


This being a woman
is always about love

you may love one
or may love many,
but most of all
you must love your self

~~~

This being alive

.

This being alive
is a thing to celebrate

notice how
the heart marches
beat by pounding beat
regardless of
dusk or dawn
calm or storm
relentless
an unseen
unstopping soldier

notice how
the breath pulls us
stride by stride
inhale by exhale
a spectral charioteer
horses unseen
this carriage temporal
sometimes weary
sometimes strong

notice how
each heartbeat
is a milestone
a silent victory
exulting in us
every second
each breath a stitch
and stitch by stitch
a life is sewn

how can we not celebrate?

knowing that
bits of stars
abide in us
waiting to reveal
celestial light

knowing our home
this blue jewel
is hurtling through space
in the company of giants
nestled in a galaxy

this being alive
is a thing of pain

notice how
dreams shatter
life crumbles
people leave
and people die
you fail and fall again
but this you know
at your very core
you are unbreakable

how can we not celebrate
when life waits within
to express itself
as love, as light
as grace

sit still
feel the life force
the inexplicable joy
that waits beneath
for the blossoming

this being alive
is a rising up, a setting out
a triumph over ennui and death
a casting off of darkness
a revealing of light

~~~

Poem of the day : Rain

 

by KAZIM ALI

With thick strokes of ink the sky fills with rain.
Pretending to run for cover but secretly praying for more rain.

Over the echo of the water, I hear a voice saying my name.
No one in the city moves under the quick sightless rain.

The pages of my notebook soak, then curl. I’ve written:
“Yogis opened their mouths for hours to drink the rain.”

The sky is a bowl of dark water, rinsing your face.
The window trembles; liquid glass could shatter into rain.

I am a dark bowl, waiting to be filled.
If I open my mouth now, I could drown in the rain.

I hurry home as though someone is there waiting for me.
The night collapses into your skin. I am the rain.

~~~