Life – a Jisei #poetry #dVerse

Like an affair with 
a half-remembered lover
I wouldn’t say I’m 
happy that it’s over; 

but rather that
I no longer 
need you:

my heart is light.

Frank hosts at dVerse tonight, and he has asked us to write a Jisei, or death poem, celebrating the onset of the northern winter. I wouldn’t say I’m ever happy to see the end of summer, but I am trying to not be so reliant on the sunlight to give me happiness. There is also a light within.

Fascinatingly, it was traditional for Japanese poets to write a Jisei on their death bed: a philosophical look back at life, referring to death without directly mentioning it. Kamikaze pilots also did this before going into battle, which is how this form of poetry became known in the West. I hope when my time comes, I am as willing to let go as the narrator of this poem.

Traditional Jisei would take the form of a Tanka, roughly equivalent in syllabic terms to 5-7-5-7-7, but I didn’t stick to that format as the words didn’t flow that way for me.

47 thoughts on “Life – a Jisei #poetry #dVerse

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  1. This actually made me smile. Sometimes, when a relationship that was not meant to be is over, even after rancor and heartache, the heart does actually become lighter.

  2. I love that you have not only referred to death without directly mentioning it in this poem, Ingrid, but also compared it to a dead love affair, and the release in the final line is palpable with no hint of sadness.

  3. This is an interesting poetry form I have not heard of! I love your jisei; I am more of a late spring and early fall girl, but the seasons in between have their remembrances and wistful memories too. 🙂

  4. I particularly liked the turn in the last line – as it lifts the poem from loss and melancholy. That assertion in lines 6 & 7 – ‘I no longer need you’ reminds how sometimes we cling to life – as if it were well…life.

    1. Thanks Peter: there’s a phrase in John Irving’s ‘Last Night in Twisted River’ a Chinese phrase ‘she bu de’ which he translates as ‘I can’t bear to let go’ – but in the end we have to.

  5. For a first effort, this is masterful. I wrote several stanzas, and had difficulty creating an uplift as ending. Sometimes the form dictated the emotion, Japanese forms are a joy to work with.

  6. Ingrid, your death poem is beautiful and uplifting! I like the metaphor for life you chose… a long-forgotten lover you don’t need anymore.

    If I can die without regrets, I am sure that death will be a light feeling. I try to live my life so that I won’t have regrets. For the regrets I do have, I try to make amends and then forgive myself.

  7. I love that you didn’t follow the rules and explained the Jisei poem which gave such depth of meaning to your poem. I had never heard of it before but saw Dwight right about it. I think writing this at the end of your life is such a gift to pass on. I could feel complete if I died tomorrow but I so much want to be there for milestones in my kids life I do know they will create the lives they were born to live which brings ne peace. Have a lovely weekend Ingrid! ❤️ Cindy

    1. Thanks Cindy: I agree, it’s a remarkable thing to do actually compose a poem on your death bed. I’ve no plans to bail out any time soon but it’s good to live every day as though it is your last: with no regrets ❤️

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