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January 2018, vol 13 no 4

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Angelee Deodhar

Haibun: Ars Moriendi

Sometimes when one visits a person who is depressed it rubs off on you and you come home looking for a sturdy rope to hang yourself with, or drink hemlock or its equivalent to end it all. Earlier this evening I met an acquaintance, after almost a year, and she narrated her innumerable woes, which I had heard many times before.

Returning home I pour myself a glass of Bianco Di Ca' Momi and ponder over the Ars Moriendi, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and Japanese death poems. After a second glass of Shiraz, in a fairly relaxed mood, listening to hot instrumental salsa music, I revise my jisei from:

water worn boulder
so smooth now
under my feet


my ashes
under ponderosa pine
La Jolla seal song


The first haiku previously published in Mann Library's Daily Haiku

Jisei is the most common type of death poem. The death poem is a genre of poetry that developed in the literary traditions of East Asian cultures—most prominently in Japan as well as certain periods of Chinese history and Joseon Korea. They tend to offer a reflection on death—both in general and concerning the imminent death of the author—that is often coupled with a meaningful observation on life. The practice of writing a death poem has its origins in Zen Buddhism.