What do you see as you come to the emergence of Winter?
Some see death others see hope
Death waiting for life
Photo: Dwight L. Roth
This came to me this morning as I was reading through the collection of Jisei poems from Frank Tassone’s prompt on d’Verse. We are to write a death poem or a Jisei. Jisei poems were of Japanese origins, and were often written in waka (tanka) or haiku, but death poems are not restricted to those forms. What is essential is the expression of both imminent death and the significance of life in the face of it. In this sense, Jisei is the poetry of both memorial and celebration.
Through it all the animals roam freely
while humans withdraw in their dread and fear
not venturing out // where birds sing sweetly
Our furry and feathered friends worry not
going about their gatherings with cheer;
living lives daily with nary a thought.
Resigned to their fate, they’ve no ears to hear.
While superior beings listen in fear…
Newscasts shout, “Cornovirus is near!”
What makes us believe we should rule the world?
We read it on pages // good books are clear
we’re invincible // destined // brash and bold…
Perhaps, it’s now time to accept our state;
realizing we are not superior here;
and, like the animals accept our fate.
Live life with purpose making each day count.
Knowing in God we trust through every tear…
we face each tomorrow as tensions mount.
I see people racing to the store to buy up toilet paper, I notice all around me in nature is still the same. The birds sing the squirrels raid my feeder without a thought. We have a lot to learn about our place in this world and nature has many ways to help keep us in perspective.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, I think of all those who left family and friends to travel here, in perilous conditions, for the chance of having a new and better life. Some came for adventure, some for gain, and others for religious freedom. I wrote this poem about my Great Grandfather’s family coming to America from Switzerland. On that voyage we are told they lost their youngest daughter. Details are unknown, so I wrote this fictional poem detailing what I thought might have happened. My Grandfather was only six years old at the time. It really makes me appreciate the blessings I have because of their choice to risk it all and come to America. I thought I would repost this as a reminder to us all.
The Long Sad Voyage of 1882 (Goodbye Little Sister)
Ships tall masts reaching high to the sky
Awesome for a boy of six just wondering why
His family packed up and left their home.
Heading for a new world they travel alone
Brothers left behind grown and married.
Younger and sisters stay with the family,
Watching the Alps fade as the shadows wane.
To the port of Le Havre floating down the Seine.
Ready to board this giant bucket of timber
Excitement rising trying to remember
All of his friends left behind in Basel
New adventures unseen in this perilous travel
Noise and activity surrounds them all
White sails slide up and begin to unfurl
Down to steerage on the ships second level
The Roth family finds a place to settle.
Into the briny dark seas they sail
To New York Harbor and where liberty hails.
As the week drags on the voyage is rough
Young Christian and sisters find sleeping is tough
The food is bad, unlike cooking back home
The water in barrels kept from the rats’ roam.
But somehow this packed and unsanitary condition
Made some folks sick with dysentery emissions.
Little sister was one whose resistance was lacking.
As the days dragged on her fever not slacking
Worried mother and father prayed for God’s backing.
Little sister got worse there was nothing to do
As her fever raged on everyone knew.
Late one night while everyone slept
Little sister passed on our little angel had left.
O how we cried and mourned this great loss
Little sister had died before we’re across.
The captain came by early that dawn
Saying sadly, “She’s gone, now we must send her on.”
The day was spent in tears and sad wails
As the orange sun was setting we bid our farewells.
Wrapped in a blanket lowered into the swell
Into the briny blue she fell.
With prayers and weeping the sadness abounds
Young Christian stood watching as folks gathered round,
Little sister was gone for her t’was too late,
Wondering if he might be next for this sad fate.
On reaching New York the emigrants unloaded
Ellis Island was crowded each family recorded
Christian and family moved on to Ohio
With promise of hope always held high.
Words still to come reflect how it should be, “Give me your tired your poor yearning to be free”
Give me your sad you distraught still counting the cost
Seeking religious freedom in a land unknown
Where Freedom and Liberty stand alone!
Old ship bones lie buried and rotten
Reflecting a story that’s long forgotten
Symbol of strength
Pride of the ocean
An ill fate soon to be gotten
Flag blowing from the high mast
White billowing sails
Long days on the wide open ocean
Casting their fates t’will soon be too late
As the sun goes to sleep without motion
Port of call on islands across the Caribbean
With many wild stories to tell
Rum and Sugar and maybe some gold
With pirates hot on their tail
Drinking sweet rum in the late evening sun
Singing songs of women with assets
Dead heads in the morning pounding their skulls
Trying to find a way to get past it
Red sky that morning gave an ominous warning
Of danger north of Hatteras
Straight into the gale without any quale
She drove as the storm came at us
If they’d been there before we don’t know for sure
They surely did not remember
Since they rode without fear on this ghost ship of death
Into the ill-fated storm of September
Gargantuan waves crashed over the bow
Drowning out the sailors’ last cry
Cargo and ship sank into the dip
As the cane of September swept by
Pounded and broken the ship in a swoon
Without sailor or cargo or sail
Everything had been cast the ship heaved its last
To lie in its grave in the dunes
For the next hundred years entombed in the sand
It took its rest without moving
Until a cane of October came washing over
Leaving open its coffin for viewing
Now families with children climb high on the dunes
Assuming but never knowing
Ships’ bones tell no tales
That’s left to me
And my imagination’s still growing
As I looked at this photo, it reminded me of my first kiss. Frozen in time, it will always be there in my memory. Your first Kiss is a beautiful moment that can change the future. Perhaps you have had more than one experience; some first kisses might not lead to a future relationship. The emotional connection leaves impressions of that moment that stay in your mind forever.
Coal mining is a deadly occupation. Many men have died in the mines while digging coal out of the ground. Explosions of deadly methane gas have occurred many times over the years. When I was very young our coal mining community lost over thirty men to an explosion in the Robina Mine in Green County, Pennsylvania. It was a sad day for all of us. Yet men still go down into the mine shafts every day bringing out the coal. The painting was done by a coal miner who rose through the ranks to become head of the Mine Workers Union. He was a poet and a painter. Check out his work at the end of this poem.
Coal Miner’s Fate
Digging in the dark dusty earth
Coming home every day
Covered in black dust head to toe
Only to turn around and do it all again
Spending a lifetime digging in the earth
Only to spend an eternity there as well
Lost forever in the dust and methane
That explosion sealed his fate
Never again to be found
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes
But, then again we all knew
It was just a matter of time
Tomorrow we’ll do it all over again
Is the money worth the pain?
Painting by John Minnich “Jock” Wilson aka. The Coal Miners Poet