This Sunday’s poem of the week is: “Life Beyond Death”

In the 1990s I was given a poetry book Call Me By My True Names, by the zen master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I and my family came to know as Thay (teacher).

For me, it was the most transformative book I’ve ever read, leading me along the mindfulness and meditation pathway I still follow. After that reading, my life was never again the same.

Last month, we got the long expected news: our great master, teacher, poet passed, aged 95.

Goodnight Thay. May your Buddha nature continue to light the way. Your teaching insists this is no time for mourning. So instead I’m posting this poem, full of words and understanding your life's work gave me, when I most needed it.


If I am not to be flung into chaos,
If I am not to be scattered 
in the whirlpool of grief,
if my days are to continue to count,
you must know something:
I have not become nothing.  

Things are forever forming
and reforming, 
taking on new incarnations,
but it is not possible for a thing 
to turn into no thing. 

Nothing is contained within everything,
every atom, every star, every cell.
Everything is contained within nothing.

This is not a matter of belief. 
This is science, a matter of matter. 
This is the story of life on earth. 

My body was never all of me. 
Part of me has always been free,
composed of wide oceans 
and many galaxies.
And we were always changing, 
you and me. 

So now, smile to me, sing to me,
call me by my name, in our old easy way. 
My death, like my birth, 
was only an opening, allowing 
a slip of my immensity through. 

Wherever you go, now, let me be there,
present forever in you.

To receive award-winning poetry from me each month, become a poetry patron on Patreon (just $2 a month).

Register here.

Orna Ross


Sign up below and I'll send you First Flush, a mini-poetry book in ebook and audio--and my quarterly non-patron poetry news: Pause for Poetry.

Once you've entered your name and email address, watch out for my email. If it doesn't arrive, check your spam folder.

I would never spam you. Unsubscribe anytime.