Monday, November 2, 2015

The Color of Death


What is the color of death?
In the West many say black,
Some in the East say white.
Devout Muslims enshroud the dead
In white cotton or linen,
Depositing bodies in graves,
Heads pointed toward Mecca.
Protective white paper encloses
Household shrines in Japan,
Sealing against malignant spirits.
Blue is the sadness of death,
Color of mourning in Korea.
Thai widows mourn in purple,
Same color chosen by Roman Catholics
During Lent to drape in reverence the cross,
Instrument and symbol of the universal death
Of the Son of God.

Those whose livelihood is the dead—
Morticians, coroners, embalmers—might say
Death is gray, cadaver pallor.
Hacking, slicing, packing
Dead animals,
Slaughterhouse workers might say
Death is red, fresh meat.
Buddhists who cremate the dead might say
Death is yellow and orange, purifying flames.
Distant heirs of the ancient Egyptians, or of
South Americans of old—Mayans, Aztecs, Incans—might say
Death is gold, everlasting raiment of the sun.

I say death is multicolored—
Sundry motley opening leaves of a fan,
Forward tumbling acrobats in rainbow costumes,
Multihued children’s picture books,
Mobile animal figure whirligigs,
Variegated wallpaper prints,
Van Gogh sunflowers,
Brazilian toucans,
Australian parakeets,
Octopuses, neon-like, bursting with emotion,
Pendant festival lanterns,
Brass bands marching holiday parades,
Fighting kites flashing ribbon tails,
Tibetan prayer flags streaming.

Originally published in Progenitor Art and Literary Journal (2015), pages 13-14

Tibetan prayer flags


  1. Photo courtesy of InsightTravels

    Photo (video) link:


  2. Progenitor Online link:!The-Color-of-Death/c1ym4/5542c1820cf2836c880b1bfa