Japanese death poems

This post needs a little explanation. I participated in a poetry class over the last six months. Our fearless leader, Jeanne Rana, invited us every two weeks to try traditional poetic forms: pantoum; villanelle; haiku; dekaaz; the “I am” poem; triolet; sentence down the side; Beatitudes; and today, our final meeting, Japanese death poems.

The instruction around Japanese death poems or jisei: these poems traditionally are spoken on the poets’ or warriors’ deathbed. Their final words.

Jeanne gave us only two minutes to write as many as we could—I believe to get us out of our minds and into our hearts. They are not titled. I have a favorite; do you?

follow
the silken thread

now, now
forever

light blossoms

goodbye
dear world

carry my love

onward!
surprise me

I leave
my warmth

trust, trust, trust
what else is there?

breathe light
instead of air

aha!
this, too

love the
whole catastrophe

2022 ©Amrita Skye Blaine
I’m writing a poem a day. These are drafts—they may never turn into anything more or they might flower.

14 thoughts on “Japanese death poems

        1. However you commented on this Japanese Death poems post, this is the way to do it! It’s perfect and readable.
          I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Boudewijn made license-plate holders–many years ago–that say “This is it. Only now.”

  1. Margaret Rooney

    What a marvelous exercise! I love “breathe light instead of air”
    Your journey is full of surprises and gifts.

  2. Rebecca

    “Loved the whole catastrophe,” and “I leave my warmth.” And, too, “Breathe light instead of air.” “Loved the whole catastrophe” is more me than any of them!

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