Looking Death in the Eye

Creeping coldness swallows daylight
Pinprick lights pierce highest heaven
Heavy heart and heavier eyes
The restless mind cannot find peace
Silence reigns in velvety night
Counting heartbeats to eleven
Whistling breath and exhaled sighs
Waiting patiently for release

Death come without regard for might
Some live lives without leaven
Worry and toil yet cannot rise
Selfish man his wealth to increase
Sees his life as an uphill fight
Fails to forgive seven times seven
Hopes heaven’s entrance when he dies
Richman’s chances at death decrease

The approach of winter always makes me keenly aware of the eventuality of death. All the green of summer has turned brown and died back. The insects have become dormant, many birds disappeared south and so too the wildlife has sought refuge in hibernation. I feel as if part of me has shriveled and died too. Living in the cold of the north, I feel my blood thicken and slow. The days become grey and the sun is hidden behind thick clouds. Now is the season to consider the reasons for the grasping at wealth, striving for acceptance, thirsting for connection. I look inward and then outward trying to connect the dots; dots that sparkle like stars. And still I hope that even if death comes I have amassed the right coin for the tollway to heaven….

This poem is a Pantun Enam Belas Kerat which is the longest form of a Pantun, a poetry form of Malaysian origin. This long form is composed of 2 octaves where each line is a consistent syllable count between 8 to 12 syllables. The rhyme scheme is: abcdabcd, abcdabcd. The first octave is the “shadow” and may loosely allude to the second octave which contains the “meaning”. The shadow often has metaphor and references specific to the individual(s) it was intended for.

52 thoughts on “Looking Death in the Eye

          1. We live in a place with lots of wind. Today was brutal with the wind but tonight I was able to be outside while Wrangler unloaded. The wind had died down and it was cool but not bad.

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    1. Yes, David. There are shorter forms. There is the Pantun made of 2 quatrains of 8-12 syllables per line and a rhyme of abab. The Pantun Dua Kerat which is a couplet of 2 unrhymed lines of 8-12 syllables each. And the long one Pantun Enam Belas Kerat which I’ve done here. I’m surprised the Pantun Dua Kerat didn’t come onto your radar for short forms!

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        1. Hmm. There is the Alouette – 2 or more 6 line stanzas with s syllable count and rhyme of aabccb. Or perhaps you’d like the Clogyrnach (the Welsh like 6 line stanzas) with a syllable count of 885533 and a rhyme of aabbba or the Cywydd Llosgyrnog syllable count 887887 and a rhyme scheme of aabccb. But what I think you want is the Memento!, a syllabic poem of two 6 line stanzas with a syllable count of 862862 and a rhyme of ABCABC (the rhyme does not have to be the same for the second stanza)…

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    1. I see myself as a seed waiting for the spring to germinate and flower. There are some seeds that won’t grow unless they have been frozen in the ground… I recall that poppy seeds won’t sprout unless they have been in the ground during a freeze (but I could be mistaken). Death is never the end but only a passage between this life and the next!

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  1. That is quite a deep, long look at death, Val. I am sure it is quite some way off. I guess winter in north makes everyone think of death. Maybe because it is very cold.
    This is again a very interesting form. I am bookmarking all the interesting forms you have introduced us to.

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    1. Thanks Punam! I’m so glad these forms are tickling your interest! I bet you will be able to run with them and create gorgeous poetry! It is the cold for me that turns my thought to death. For others it is the lack of sunshine/Vit. D deficiency, and still others it is the muted colors and sameness of the sky… Sparky on the other hand was just waxing poetical about the snow in the trees and the way the light catches the ice crystals – just before he realized that he wouldn’t be able to rake the leaves!!

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      1. That is very sweet of you to say.
        I think I agree with Sparky! Snow looks beautiful in Hollywood movies and photos. Maybe all I need to do is spend one winter in your neck of the wood to change my mind. Loo

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    1. The haiku and senyru are not to be underrated for difficulty. I find that writing bad haiku is easy but writing good ones is as arduous as some of the much longer forms! I’ve been trying to write haiku but I’m unsatisfied with my efforts and have not posted any of them! Perhaps in the coming month I’ll do a few haiku/senyru posts…

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      1. I look forward to reading those too Muri. If I waited to be satisfied, I’d never publish anything (apart from the trout, sure). πŸ™‚
        breathing out
        November fog –
        rich scent the leaves

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          1. you say that to the woman who has as one of her life’s mottos ‘nobody is useless – they can always serve as a bad example’ applying that to haiku. No, I think, you are just overly critical of yourself- that may get in the way sometimes – nite nite.

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  2. awesome poem on death, so sorry the cold makes you feel that heavy! Glad Sparky sees the crystals, he’ll be your counter-balance. Interesting format I’d like to try πŸ™‚

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  3. “Pantun Enam Belas Kerat” magic words to open a stone. Interesting — my perspective on winter is that all the tired creatures can rest before the whole insane rushed fecundity of summer starts to drive them. Winter is my favorite season. ❄️ ❄️ ❄️ ❄️

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    1. Ah Martha! I know you love the snow! I can see that having a good rest before the twitterpation begins would benefit all of nature. Seeing as I’m beyond any fertility, I just think about curling up and hibernating. Hoping for a short winter and a long spring and summer! Our snow lasted 3 days but it got up to 54F today and it all melted and has been raining all day… not sure that is any better than the snow.

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  4. Death may be inevitable but winter doesn’t have to be. My guest house remains available to you and Sparky should you want a break from the dreary winter at home. February is almost always perfectly lovely here and a week of sunshine might be just what the doctor ordered for the mid-winter blues. Day trips from here could include: Palm Springs, Anza Borego State Park, Joshua Tree National Monument, The Getty Museum, San Diego, Laguna Beach, The Mojave Desert, Death Valley, the Eastern Sierra, and LA attractions. There are two international airports within thirty minutes – an hour of us, both of which are small enough to be easily navigated.Geocache opportunities abound..I would guess.

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    1. It is very tempting. We will be travelling south to visit my sister at the end of January. Then we are planning a jaunt to BC, Canada. At some point we will be going to Hawaii or Alaska… So this year is pretty booked! Perhaps in 2023~ I will put you on the list!

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  5. i don’t have an actual reference of winter as i live in a tropical country and obviously, we don’t have snow here.. so i enjoyed this poem so much… though i am not sure if i would survive winter if I’ll experience it…. lol

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    1. Oh Mich! I’m certain that you would survive. Probably not happily. My sister in Florida feels that it is really cold if it gets to 50F. The first time we went it was cold by their standards but felt balmy compared to the subzero temps we were having! hehe!

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  6. Here, we have a shorter winter, with relatively minor snowfall. By March, everything starts to “green up” again. Of course, there are always “outlier” snowstorms, before Christmas or after Easter. The “mother of all outliers” was actually on Mother’s Day, 2016, when we had 2 inches of snow-gone by Noon.

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    1. I often wish our weather was milder but that means more bugs. And I can live without a bumper crop of stink bugs or mosquitoes or even grasshoppers! I might even change my opinion of the spiders in the house if they made a difference with the stinkbugs!!

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