Poetry and Readings for Memorial Services
Playing Native American flute at a memorial service can be a profound experience for all involved. Playing Amazing Grace is often appropriate, but there are also some great readings that can be used in combination with flute music. Here are some that I've found:
Zen "No" Poem
Behold she was here a while ago.
Now she is no more to be seen.
She flies over the mountains
Her voice echoes through the valleys
She has vanished to this land of Nowhere
--Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki - Zen and Japanese Culture ([Suzuki-DT 1959])
The silence of nature within.
The power within. The power without.
The path is whatever passes – no end in itself.
The end is grace – ease – healing, not saving.
Singing the proof
The proof of the power within.
-- Gary Snyder
Song for Guy Davenport
Within the circles of our lives
we dance the circles of the years,
the circles of the seasons
within the circles of the years,
the cycles of the moon
within the circles of the seasons,
the circles of our reasons
within the cycles of the moon.
Again, again we come and go,
changed, changing. Hands
join, unjoin in love and fear,
grief and joy. The circles turn,
each giving into each, into all.
Only music keeps us here,
each by all the others held.
In the hold of hands and eyes
we turn in pairs, that joining
joining each to all again.
And then we turn aside, alone,
out of the sunlight gone
into the darker circles of return.
-- Wendell Berry, from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry ([Berry 1999]), and also Earth Prayers from Around the World by Elizabeth Roberts ([Roberts-E 1991], page 286).
En nuestras almas todo
por misteriosa mano se gobierna.
nada sabemos de las almas nuestras.
Las más hondas palabras
del sabio nos enseñan,
lo que el silbar del viento cuando sopla,
o el sonar de las aguas cuando ruedan.
In our souls everything
moves guided by a mysterious hand.
we know nothing of our own souls.
The deepest words
of the wise men teach us
the same as the whistle of the wind when it blows
or the sound of the water when it is flowing.
-- Antonio Machado (1875-1939), Spanish poet, translated by Robert Bly, from Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado ([Machado 1983]). Note that I have changed the third and fourth lines of Robert Bly's English translation from the original translation of
“We know nothing of our own souls
that are understandable, and say nothing.”
When I Go
Come, lonely hunter, chieftain and king
I will fly like the falcon when I go
Bear me my brother under your wing
I will strike fell like lightning when I go
I will bellow like the thunder drum, invoke the storm of war
A twisting pillar spun of dust and blood up from the prairie floor
I will sweep the foe before me like a gale out on the snow
And the wind will long recount the story, reverence and glory, when I go
Spring, spirit dancer, nimble and thin
I will leap like coyote when I go
Tireless entrancer, lend me your skin
I will run like the gray wolf when I go
I will climb the rise at daybreak, I will kiss the sky at noon
Raise my yearning voice at midnight to my mother in the moon
I will make the lay of long defeat and draw the chorus slow
I'll send this message down the wire and hope that someone wise is listening when I go
And when the sun comes, trumpets from his red house in the east
He will find a standing stone where long I chanted my release
He will send his morning messenger to strike the hammer blow
And I will crumble down uncountable in showers of crimson rubies when I go
Sigh, mournful sister, whisper and turn
I will rattle like dry leaves when I go
Stand in the mist where my fire used to burn
I will camp on the night breeze when I go
And should you glimpse my wandering form out on the borderline
Between death and resurrection and the council of the pines
Do not worry for my comfort, do not sorrow for me so
All your diamond tears will rise up and adorn the sky beside me when I go
-- Dave Carter (1952-2002).
A description of this song by Dave Carter's partner, Tracy Grammer, in the liner notes of ([Whitman 2004]):
Inspired in part by his extensive shamanic studies and by symbols from “the flower ornament
scriptures,” a sacred Buddhist text, Dave wrote this song to give his mother images and music
to journey by as she made her way through the final stages of Alzheimer’s. The song was
written in June, 1997; Nadine Carter died on July 10.
Dave and I sang this song at every full-length concert we gave from 1998 to 2002. The song
has always been my favorite of Dave’s works. On July 19, 2002, Dave Carter left this world at
the age of 49. I did not know how deeply the song was ingrained in my consciousness until
that final moment, when in a profound state of shock and grief I uttered to him the most
earnest wish I could think of, from his song: “Fly like the falcon …” — Tracy