A death poem for the new year


The river rushes
Taking everything with it
While the rocks are still.

It is new year tradition at my zen center to write a death poem, and this is my poem for this year.

A death poem is a tradition that comes from Japan. It is meant to be an observation on the life that the writer has lived and to impart a bit of dharma, based on the experience of the previous year (or their entire life if written on their deathbed). You don’t put a lot of thought into them beforehand. They are supposed to be spontaneous. I think this spontaneity is key to making sure the poem comes straight from the gut. I love this tradition and look forward to it every year.

This past year I have had an image of a very fast moving stream in my head. I often feel like my life is a fast moving stream and I’m just being carried away with the current, not having much control over where I go. I really dislike this feeling and have been trying to figure out how to be the rock at the bottom of the river. That is what this past year has been about, in metaphorical terms.

If you want to read more of my death poems from previous years, check out the Death Poetry tag here. You can find more death poetry from Wyeast Zen Center by following this link. And if you want to read more about death poetry in general, here is the Wikipedia entry.

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