Poem with Two Endings


Say “death” and the whole room freezes–
even the couches stop moving,
even the lamps.
Like a squirrel suddenly aware it is being looked at.

Say the word continuously,
and things begin to go forward.
Your life takes on
the jerky texture of an old film strip.

Continue saying it, hold it moment after moment inside the mouth,
it becomes another syllable.
A shopping mall swirls around the corpse of a beetle.

Death is voracious, it swallows all the living.
Life is voracious, it swallows all the dead.
neither is ever satisfied, neither is ever filled,
each swallows and swallows the world.

The grip of life is as strong as the grip of death.

(but the vanished, the vanished beloved, o where?)

~ Jane Hirshfield

9 thoughts on “Poem with Two Endings

    • Dear Ranu,

      Thank you for your visit and comments. I believe awareness of death very much enlivens, and brings quality to, our lives. It is not, at all, a morbid subject.

      All good wishes,


    • Dear Sonya,

      Thank you for your visit and comments.

      I am familiar with a saying: “If you die before death, you do not die when you die.” Your comment brings this to mind.

      All good wishes,


    • Hi Diwata,

      Thank you vey much for your visit and comments. I’m glad that you found value in it.

      All good wishes,


  1. Is this synchronicity or what! I met a friend today and for some reason we ended up discussing death – and I expressed the opinion that to truly live one must constantly live in the awareness of death – for it is that – that gives us the impetus to truly live in the moment and appreciate what it means to be alive. Thank you for sharing this poem.

    • Dear Anjali,

      Thank you for visiting here and sharing your comments. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The perennial spiritual traditions all point to the remembrance of death as exceptionally powerful in enlivening us, and helping us to live so very purposefully.

      Thank you again :-).

      All good wishes,


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