Monday, February 06, 2006

Flowers in the Cracks, A Poem About My Death

At the San Francisco Zen Center, Gretel Ehrlich led an all-day seminar about Making Beauty with Beginner’s Mind. Since much of what I am doing is now beginning again, I wanted to experience the beginner's mind once more. During the seminar we were asked to write a poem about our own death. This poem is not about suicide, but about the death of ego. It is about the death of the limits that I have operated under for a decade or perhaps more. Perhaps these limitations have been there all my life.

Yet recently, I surrendered to the muses and to God. Not in a bitter desparate surrender. Instead, it is a glad surrender. An opening of the gates to allow the triumphant parade of creativity to return to my life. The siege is over. Let love reign!

Here then, is the poem I wrote extemporaneously on that day. The only word altered from that burst of writing was the name "Euterpe," who is herein properly credited as the Muse of lyric poetry. I'm sure the sisters are giggling at my mortal mistaking of one for the other.
Flowers in the Cracks, or
My Death at the Feet of the Muses

Oh Calliope!
Oh Clio!
Oh daughters all of Mnemosyne!
Urania! The stars are where I shall return!
Terpsichore, I loved you so.
Dance with me at Heaven's Gate.
Polyhymnia, sacred Muse, take me to the altar.
Marry me, dear Muses all.
Make me your lover
Your master
Your slave
Your glad servant
Today, I die.
Yet never mourn
For in Eos' smile I am reborn.
There! Euterpe approaches.
And to rhyming couplets she now coaches
Euterpe, lyric gentle woman possess me
As you did Lennon, Dylan, Yeats and Marley
Take me to the river along with Talking Heads
Lay me down to sleep with nine women in nine beds.
Nine parts of desire still fill my heart
And the tenth, your mother Mnemosyne, reminds me of your arts.
Mortal mind fails and I am dead
Here is the line of mortality past which I have lost my head
Ah! Now I am free to admit all I never said.
Free of law and limit to infinitely wed
Not just the nine Muses but every woman, man and beast
Marry God himself and ever iota in the least
And in the stillness of it all find a flower in the crack
Give it to my brides and accepted turn my back
For my love was chaste, and consumed in the thought
Of how swiftly forty one years came and went
During which I swerved and fought
For each quatrain of joy and now it's all been spent
But horse is here and dog and flower and a tree
And these are all one needs in God's eternity
To carry on forever and to hunt and sniff and rest
Perhaps I haven't married because that was for the best
For Malthus would approve and Edward saint confessed
Yet there's so much beauty I should put unto the test
Aphrodite you eluded me when I forgot your name
And in my lapse of mind when I was quite insane
You got married and divorced in a worldly hell inane
With a lame and cruel smith who forged an iron claim
He put the bond upon you, and enslaved me at a desk
Yet now it is time to pause before teacher starts to pesk.

I am dead.
I can stop.
The line above was an actual fold in the crinkling rice paper we wrote upon in graphite pencil. The original title was "Flowers in the Cracks," the overall theme for the project I began this year with Ilona Lieberman.

I also gave the poem a more suitable and specific subtitle. Because I predict many poems this year and possibly many years hence will be related to the project of Flowers in the Cracks.

For now, this is a poem about my death and rebirth. The Green Knight is dead. Long live the Green Knight!


  1. Interesting poem. For a poetry workshop, we actually wrote our own obituary. That was a great task! A friend of mine actually had hers published in a chapbook.

    Great link...brought me to one of my most favorite authors of all time -- Gretel Ehrlich!!! Yay, and I got to read that advanced copy of her recent piece in the Shambala Sun.

  2. Thanks for the comment Aileen!

    I'm glad that you survived to write your own obituary.

    If you have poems and you'd like to collaborate on a poetry project, check out