Wilderness Elegy

When I die, don’t put me in the ground.
Prop me up and let me sit awhile
Among the trees in a northern forest
Where moose walk invisibly among willows
New-grown and smelling wild as heaven.

I could do no worse
Than the hollow trunk of a downed cottonwood
Against which I’ll recline, head thrown back
And mouth agape as if mid-snore.
I won’t bother anyone. Let me rot in peace
Sinking back into the ground until my skin
Sprouts a coating of moss.

Get the ravens to come and pluck my eyes and ears
And fly far and fast in the four directions:
I'll kiss this good old world goodbye
And say hello to the next one
Astride their night-black wings.

Tell the squirrels to come and nibble away
My fingerprints, erasing all traces of who I was
For I will not be needing them anymore.
Hear my last will and testament:
To be left in peace, here in the woods
Feeding myself to the wild.

Break out the oboe and call the wolves:
Tell them to take my ankles in their strong jaws
And sing while they eat my feet.
I cannot imagine a better place
For my worn-out soles and aching arches
Than their swift bellies as they go sliding
With a shadow’s ease among the black spruce
And pale peeling birch.

Rain will certainly come and fill my mouth
Making there a bath for wild birds
And a drinking-pool for moths
And bees and the long tongues of butterflies.
Perhaps flowers will grow where my smile once was:
Peony, poppy, iris, begonia.

But what is left for the great, wandering bear?
Will she want my heart? I can see her passing by
Stopping to sniff my face in its lichen shroud.
She places a paw upon my chest. Yes!
She will take my heart. It will go with her
Where she fishes for silver in the quick cold stream
And shout for joy when she strikes.

With my heart gone (that restless rhythm)
All is finally quiet.
There’s not much left, but what there is
The trees can have. Already they
Are soaking me up:
Drawing minerals from my bones
And water from my blood
While chickadees take my hair strand by strand.

What of my fingernails?
I surmise the wind will scatter them
With the sound of a mandolin played
By a happy idiot.
Here let the moose shake his antlers
In the branches of a yellowing alder
For the eulogy has ended
And the leaves are chanting their mantra:
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Where goes one, there go we all.



  1. Hi, just loved this poem, connected through a post from you on "Elephant Journal"
    I've been studying the dharma for a long while, please keep up these great teachings!

  2. Thank you for reading. I am always honored when people connect with the words that are given to me. Many blessings.


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