Death Poem 2015

At my Buddhist meditation class last week the teacher mentioned that many Buddhists write a poem to be read if their life has ended. This is called a “death poem” and far from being a celebration of life, the teacher said, they are usually pessimistic, discussing in verse the mechanics of failure rather than the organics of life. Most Buddhists who follow this practise create a new poem every year and destroy the old one. This seemed a good idea to me. This “death poem” is not my own sentiment exactly; it is what I would imagine a committed buddhist priest or teacher, after devoting his life to the practise of Zen, might write in his poem should he leave one. It’s presumptuous, as I am a neophyte to meditation practise, and have no real idea of what a life-long practitioner might say or feel. But I am a writer, and we do project and appropriate constantly, so I’ll justify it thus.

Death Poem 2015

Inside these black robes
draped heavy, indelicate
across a frenzied mind
January trees stark as fingers
grope at scalloped skies–
cars belching, breath a pale
apparition on Quinpool Street
these words I mete a failure;
I find no aliquot of peace
doled out on city streets by
cyclops traffic bulbs pulsing
blood or green to bid me stay
or cross; wintry sunlight
glance from dirty windows,
the moon hitches
up its pants while singing
high in vacant skies.
I can only bear witness;
amidst morning sludge
of traffic bursting arterial streets
I chant back at the moon.

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