Thursday, December 16, 2010

About the Dead Man and Books


The dead man gathers the ashes of burned books.
Banned words turned into gray residue
hang on charred spines.
Mangled letters and vowels usurped
by hard consonants hinder reading.
Sentences without endings obstruct
a clear understanding.
Here dwell dangerous ideas interred beneath
turgid propaganda.
When the dead man forages for meaning
he sifts cinders through his fingers.
His fingers smolder when he grasps an aleph.
A breath moves the ashes.


More About the Dead Man and Books

A wind carries seeds to fallow ground.
The dead man follows, as if drawn by the breeze.
He inhales and exhales in concert with the wind.
A spread of land draws the dead man closer.
Molten lava formed from ashes fills the furrows.
The dead man stoops and spreads the rivulets
glazing the land red.
He rests and waits for the harvest
for soon he will gather new sounds.

Linda Watskin © 2010

The Dead Man is a poetry form created by the poet Marvin Bell


  1. Great, great poem. I have yet to try my hand at this form. Ideas are swimming, and with any luck I will post one soon. I like the sentence about inhaling and exhaling with the wind. Nice work!!

  2. Overworked word: beautiful. I had to look up aleph, and one of the definitions was "a glottal stop" - most intriguing.

  3. Great usage of words!

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

  4. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It is a silent letter. When a vowel is added the vowel is pronounced. Aleph also stands for the number one in Hebrew. Some stories say that it is God's breath.

    "In Modern Israeli Hebrew, the letter represents either a glottal stop, or has no pronunciation besides that of the vowel attached to it."
    December 17, 2010 8:20 AM
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  5. Linda beautifully done to the prompt.
    I see so many people were able to capture this form quite well. Thanks for the info on "aleph"
    I was going to look that up:)

  6. I love it when a poem stretches understanding, and yours did that very well. I did not completely capture the essence of Dead Man Poetry, but I did make an attempt. And will try it again in the future. I like what you accomplished very much.


  7. Intriguing. Love the words you chose to spell this tale.

  8. Oh, I love this. I've been studying the Hebrew Aleph Beit and love the reference to Aleph...the breath moves the ashes and is the freshness of a new beginning.

  9. Very imaginative, and I especially like the lines "turgid propaganda" and the sifting of cinder through his fingers...quite a word picture!

  10. i like the gathering he does in both stanzas: ashes and then sounds.

  11. OOoo. "When the dead man forages for meaning/ he sifts cinders through his fingers." is gorgeous. Love the ideas explored by your dead man. Explored with such beautiful language.