Friday, December 17, 2010

Dead Man's Curve

Dead Man's Curve

Live as if you were already dead”
~unsourced “Zen” saying, as quoted by poet Marvin Bell.

“You don’t come back/from Dead Man’s Curve…”
~20th Century American Pop Song by Jan & Dean

The Dead Man as Poseur

The Dead Man is living as if he’d been alive, because he has it all backwards.
The Dead Man is primarily a pretentious but not harmless twit, prowling the internet, squinting at some tasty wisdom he thinks he can consume like a burrito.
He likes the way the monks' robes swish as they rake the rocks 
in the sand gardens of sleeping neurons deep within an electric foreign tranquility, and thinks he must just totally must, 
have that app.
He’s looking at his navel, and sighing over the Bodhi tree; a plastic green predecorated scotch pine in the window of the home warehouse store.
Of course, there’s no reason he couldn’t sit beneath the tree, but he worries about store security, and really, he just doesn’t have the time, even though he’s supposed to be Dead 
for quite awhile.
His watch hasn’t stopped,it still tocks, so he’s still late. (If you’re pressed for time as a corpse, certainly you have no time to lose.)
But he can’t tell time very well anymore, what with the being so Dead and all.
If his eyelids hadn’t rotted, if his eyeballs weren’t a crow’s canapé, he still would look at everything and see nothing.

More about the Dead Man as Poseur

There is no more, except a Dead Man’s ego that stalks cyberfinity
and hides in the picture of a prettier girl smiling in her prom dress.
There is no more, except the Dead Man’s maw of ever gaping hunger
that dips ink brushed parchment into chocolate, and deep fries a butterfly on a stick under a maraschino cherry tree.
There is no more, except the Dead Man’s fear that the bottomless void
will suck the Dead brains right out of him and spit them into a peanut shell.
There is no more, because someone 
buried the Dead Man alive.

December 2010

Originally written in response to the Monday Prompt of 12/13/10, to write a “Dead Man’s poem” a la Marvin Bell, at Big Tent Poetry. This is explained in more detail here

Disclaimer: I cannot find any source in Zen Buddhist literature  for the saying Mr. Bell has used to create his genre of Dead Man's Poetry. Internet searches on these keywords will return only Mr Bell as a source. While this does not detract in any way from the independent merit of his work, I would take the assumption that it has any real connection to Zen tradition with a grain of salt. It seems more likely to me that this is a corruption of the famous quote attributed to Gandhi: "Live as if you will die tomorrow." But that's just me. 

Image of plastic zombie and flowers: yard art by Toscano, public domain
Second Image: Duncan Quinn suit ad, public domain


  1. Zen or not, Dead man's poetry has really taken new paths by our fellow poets. And yours are very good too.

    BTW, I wrote only one. Here is mine: dead man and his shoe painting

    And it is GANDHI not Ghandi!

  2. Thanks, gautami. I've commented on your excellent dead man's poem over at your place. (I really liked it.) And thanks for the spelling correction. Fixed now.

  3. Hedgewitch I like the perspective you took on this. I found this prompt hard to write to.

  4. Thanks, Pamela. It's the Zen aspect that bothered me. Words do have meaning, and even as writers, not just the ones we arbitrarily decide to give them. Nonetheless, I've been surprised at how good some of the prompt results have been; I think I'm going to lay that more at the feet of the poets involved, however.

  5. "There is no more, because someone
    buried the Dead Man alive." - and, of course, this gets my curiosity up like crazy. Who and what and where and when and why...

    That's an unusual prompt and I think you really ran with it, hedgewitch.

    The quote about living as if already dead tickles me...because it's almost an impossibility depending on what you believe happens after death. And then I think of the walking dead...I have met a few who appear that way...and then I'm sitting here shaking my head. Lots of thoughts provoked with this one, hedgewitch.

  6. It was a weird prompt, Talon, what can I say. But as you note, a thought provoking one. Personally, I have more faith in the line from Jan & Dean.

  7. Hello, Wicked Witch of the West. it is I, Wicked Witch of the East. And what a rotten Oz you have conjured here. I love "wisdom he thinks he can consume like a burrito" and "he must just totally must have that app" and of course, his watch hasn't stopped, so he is still late. Poor dead guy. Are those prayer flags, or just the ragged bits of his winding sheet?

    The photograph bothers me. Why it is always some poseur standing unscathed in some arty pose about as geniune as a plastic bodhisattva, but still needing a pretty girl from the modeling agency to do the heavy lifting of the scene? Even apparently passed out, she's livelier than that guy.

    Now, please help me find that Dorothy chick. She scored the last pair of ruby slippers and I mean to have them.

  8. And her mangy little dog, too, no doubt. (Good for taking care of the loose fingers.) Yeah, the photo is a whole rotten Oz in itself. That's an ad for a $3,000 suit. The woman cost much less, I'm sure.

    Good luck with your quest to rejoin the current century from your own domicile and not the library. Not that there's anything wrong with hanging out at the library. I hear they still have books made from dead trees there.

  9. Ah, returning the favor of your visit and so very glad that I did. I like your dead man poem and his conclusion. So many delightful lines and imagery. And I agree about the Zen origin of that quote. Did a little diggin myself and found the same. Words can be so easily mangled and misinterpreted. Thanks for this one, thought provoking as well as emotionally satisfying.


  10. Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth, and for explaining more about the red shoes in your comments over at your place. I definitely agree that women often have to live a long time before they wake up and can be who they really are.

  11. Provocative piece - humor, satire and no small amount of cynicism breed to create a fine read.

  12. Wow! That last line is a killer. Great rendition of a Dead Man Poem.

  13. Interesting post, agree with Tumblewords, and additionally there are a lot of great one-liners that can stand on their own,. On the quote "living as if already dead" reminds me of Gurdjieff's & Ouspensky's writings ... I think loosely quoted that "we would be shocked we could see the aura's of human's for we would discover how many among us are really walking dead."

    thanks for stopping by my blog, and leaving a comment, nice writings I find here today,


  14. Ooohh,,,the "maw of ever gaping hunger" is just a wonderful line, woven in amongst many, many others...

  15. wonderful that his watch isn't dead!!

  16. Wonderful work here, I love the way the lines wind along... it sounds like he's trying too hard to be Dead, trying to catch the fad. But being Dead is SO last year.

  17. Thanks all. I may have been a little cranky about this one, because I truly enjoyed the work everyone else did with the form.

    I did have fun with it though.

  18. Sometimes (for me) the most aggravating provocations release a lot of good creative energy.

    That seems to have been the case.

    Joseph's "being Dead is SO last year." is hysterical!

  19. Yes, he definitely caught the whole spirit of the thing. Especially appreciate it since he--and you--took the form much more seriously, and did just fine with it.

  20. I loved the satire and irony. The end is mysterious - I really want to know who buried the dead man alive and why.

  21. Ah, when you had the uncredited Zen quote I instantly thought of Musashi's "Book of Five Rings". I would have to say you have nailed the current state of humanity most proper with this piece; sort of fake, sort of sterile and all sorts of screwed up in the head!

    Well done, as always you make me think about life in general and reflect on many things. May we continue to grow with each other next year!

  22. Amen, LV my friend. Thanks for stopping by.

    You, too, marousia. (I think he buried himself alive, but it could have been me....)

  23. Disturbing, brilliant drama! Like neo-Gothic poetry!

  24. wow! wow! dead mans poetry was never like this! this is great! mine's here-

  25. Certainly made me smile! I hope it was meant to make me do that.

  26. I read through every word of htis post and all the comments and had to add a few things. First, it is AWESOME that you managed an image of omphaloskepsis into the poem (just google the word, SFW) I would give you extra points for that if I had any to share. Second - The imagery at the end of the poem is a strong ending that really captures the essence of duality expressed here. While I am personally not a dualist, there is ample imagery of it in your poem which I found intrinsic to the topic/jumping off point and expressed in a humorous way. I always enjoy laughing as I learn about something important/serious, and you accomplished that here. Excellent addition to Poetry Potluck. Take care!


  27. @CF As you know, you're one of my favorite writers on the poetry blog run so I appreciate your feedback especially, plus I am in awe that there is an actual Greek term for navel gazing, and you knew it. It will be right up there with defenestration in my list of recondite words. Very glad you enjoyed my evil cynicism.

  28. I really like the repetition of "there is no more" in part two. Nice work.

  29. interesting flow of words which kept me reading a subject i normally wouldn't. you have a way with words, and making it timeless such as "His watch hasn’t stopped, so he’s still late."

  30. Thanks, Jingle, James and rrel. Appreciate your comments and thanks for stopping by.

  31. Wow! Every line just breathed into the next - I loved the atmosphere it created. I could imagine sitting at a dingy bar beside Vincent Price as he spoke these words and points at some other poor schmuck sitting a few stools down.

  32. Thanks, ab. I would love to have Vinnie at my bar; even though he may also be a dead man, he was never a poseur, he was the real deal. Thanks for stopping by.

  33. Dear HW: Gotcha! To be forewarned is to be four-armed!


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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