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HAIKU DIALOGUE – The Language of Flowers – Daffodil – A Death Poem

The Language of Flowers: A Global Perspective with Guest Editor Carole MacRury

Floriography, the sending of secret messages via coded flower arrangements, was popular during the Victorian Era (between 1837 and 1901). Hanakotoba is the Japanese form of the Language of Flowers. Countries around the globe have their own language, myths, meanings, history and symbolism pertaining to flowers, some going back thousands of years. While the sending of secret messages through flowers might not be as popular today as it was in the Victoria age, we still use flowers to express significant moments in our lives, such as births, deaths, weddings, religious services, holidays and specific cultural and personal ceremonies.

We grow gardens, arrange flowers, and pick wildflowers to brighten our homes. The scent of flowers can lift our spirits or cause an allergic reaction. We communicate through the color of flowers. White, for instance, can represent purity, innocence, or death depending on one’s culture. Flowers throughout history have been used for their mind-altering effects. The poppy for instance evokes remembrance of those fallen in war, but also represents their medicinal ability to ease pain and our passage out of this world, or cause addiction. Flowers flavor and spice our food, or help heal our ailments through herbal remedies. Many countries around the globe have a national flower. Our hearts are lifted or broken through flowers, either cultured or wild. We are inspired by flowers through art, music and literature, whether exploring the sensuality of Georgia O’Keefe’s blossoms, or taking a trip down memory lane listening to Pete Seeger’s ageless melody, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” a song as relevant today as yesterday. Sadi, an ancient Sufi poet says, “buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.”

My photos are meant to inspire you to dig deep into your own relationship with flowers within the framework of your own specific cultures through each weekly sub-theme. My preference has always been to look closely into flowers in all stages of their lives: bud, blossom, fading. I find that looking into the heart of a flower one often finds oneself.

Banner Art courtesy of Sondra J. Byrnes Haiku Poet and Ikebana Artist

next week’s theme:  Sowing Seeds:  Literally and Metaphorically 

This image was taken in an artsy one-street town called Edison. Instead of using a curtain or blind, the owner had brightened the weathered window of their humble home with empty flower seed packets and flower bed markers. I can only imagine the backyard must surely have had a wonderful garden. The rusted handle and peeling paint had a sense of wabi-sabi. After exploring so many aspects of the Language of Flowers, let’s sow seeds literally and metaphorically. Feel free to interpret the prompt as openly as you care to.

We sow seeds, scatter seeds and plant seeds. Flowers such as dandelions and milkweed pods go to seed and are launched on the wind. We also go to seed. We sow seeds for tomorrow in many ways, for many different gardens. Teachers sow seeds of knowledge, parents sow seeds of love. We also sow seeds of hope, peace and kindness within our families, friendships, and communities. We recognize the power of a seed to rise through a crack in concrete. We water and nurture seeds. We take part in community gardens. I think of the red amaryllis and the care we take to see it bloom each Christmas. Seeds begin in darkness, then grow toward the light. We anticipate the appearance of new shoots. Seeds become flowers, become fruit. As in the lyrics to “The Rose,” written by Amanda McBroom and sung by Bette Midler, ‘some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need. I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed.’ Please feel free to let the image of empty seed packets inspire you, or the thoughts included in this prose. Share a haiku or two on what sowing seeds means or suggests to you.

I’d like to take this moment to thank everyone for trusting me with your haiku for the past nine weeks. I am deeply appreciative of your participation and the occasional uplifting note. I am always amazed at the wonderful responses that come in for each prompt. I’d especially like to thank managing editor, kjmunro, and post manager, Lori Zajkowski, and The Haiku Foundation for inviting me once more to be guest editor of Haiku Dialogue. This forum truly is a labor of love for all involved.

The deadline is midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Saturday July 02, 2022.

Please use the Haiku Dialogue submission form below to enter one or two original unpublished haiku inspired by the week’s theme, and then press Submit to send your entry. (The Submit button will not be available until the Name, Email, and Place of Residence fields are filled in.) With your poem, please include any special formatting requirements & your name & residence as you would like it to appear in the column. A few haiku will be selected for commentary each week. Please note that by submitting, you agree that your work may appear in the column – neither acknowledgment nor acceptance emails will be sent. All communication about the poems that are posted in the column will be added as blog comments.

below is Carole’s commentary for Daffodil: A Death Poem:

Thank you, dear poets, for your amazing response to this week’s prompt on writing a death poem. I received a record number of submissions this week. I also discovered that some of you wrote a poem about death, rather than a personal death poem. Many of these poems were written to the loss of loved ones, poems of remembrance and lingering grief. Beautiful and touching poems that I’m sure to see in future publications, but I was looking for poems written in the moment, contemplating one’s own death or that spoke to the transience of life. The prompt’s prose contained examples of death poems by our contemporaries and old masters as well as a poem showing how nature can be a metaphor expressing the transience of life. I gravitated towards poems that took on this challenge, poems that evoked emotion and allowed the reader to intuit deeper thoughts.

I favor haiku that communicate through first person pronouns. I find poems that address the ‘you’ can distance me from the poem. And like the Japanese death poems of the past, I received a variety of emotional overtones from poignant truths to poems written with irony and humor. I felt each poem communicated one’s truth in a believable way. While I mentioned there was no need to name a flower, many of you did anyway, and many of these poems beautifully expressed the transience of life. Nature is a metaphor for the fleetingness of life, as we all know through the cherry blossoms. But in fact, all flowers bloom and die as we do, so the language of all flowers speaks to our short lives as well. I am humbled to have had the privilege of reading your poems, and I hope all of you, as I did, find a new appreciation for life in the depths of these poems.

Due to the personal nature of these poems my comments will be lighter than usual. I believe strongly in a poem being able to speak for itself, and I would like to leave space for each of you to experience these poems without deep analysis. The best haiku in my opinion defy analysis. One simply absorbs their ahhness in stillness and silence, much as we do a spectacular sunset.

Here is a sampling of the poems that spoke to me immediately and whose meanings deepened with each reading. Many of the haiku on the longer list require close readings to appreciate the subtle metaphor within strong images. Please share your favorites in the comments section.

as I sit down
to write a death poem

Vandana Parashar

I was immediately drawn to Vandana’s poem because of her choice of bird in the last line. Mockingbirds are noted for mimicking the calls and songs of other birds. To me, this poem expresses what might indeed be the fear and reluctance many of us might face as we attempt to follow a poetic practice not part of our own culture. The appeal for me is the sense of self-doubt combined with respect for the East-Asian poets of the past. Then again, who knows what that little bird might be singing in the poet’s ear. Additionally, the connotations of mock/mocking add another layer to this honest poem.

my spirit a dust mote carried in the sunbeam

petro c. k.
Seattle, Washington

I love the metaphor in this lovely monoku. Most of us are familiar with dust motes, those glittering particles dancing in a sunbeam. Our eyes are led up the beam as if climbing a ladder to the unknown. The poem is bracketed in alliterative words, ‘spirit/sunbeam,’ and the word ‘carried’ adds a tender note to the release of one’s spirit at death. A picturesque way of viewing the end of life. When I think of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” I will remember this poem and be reminded of the cycle of all living things.

last breath
snow geese fly over my
miserable tavern

Billy Guerriero
Littleton, CO

I found this poem reminiscent of the master’s poems found within the book Japanese Death Poems, by Yoel Hoffman. I had to admire its frankness and honesty. The presence of snow geese adds an additional seasonal layer to this humble death poem. Perhaps death is another sort of migration. A miserable tavern made less miserable by the beauty of white snow geese flying overhead. Perhaps the spirit of the departed flies with them.

between two worlds the space of a breath

Neena Singh
Chandigarh, India

I felt this poem spoke best to the transience of life and reminded me that we are only a breath away from leaving this world for the unknown or the known depending on one’s spiritual and religious beliefs. Some cultures might put names to these two worlds, but for me, it works best as a time capsule where we exist between birth and death. Between our first breath and our last.

the daffodils
my turn soon

Nancy Orr
Lewiston, Maine, USA

This was my favorite of the daffodil submissions. I appreciated its neutral and accepting tone, like the Japanese poets who recognized death as an expected part of living our lives. The calm act of deadheading daffodils reminds us that flowers fade, and removing the detritus of a flower ensures its future growth.

clouds furling unfurling this transient life

Susan Burch
Hagerstown, MD

Another evocative metaphor for our short lives. I am always looking for shapes in clouds, but no sooner do I find one, it’s already shape-shifting and disappearing, feathering itself out of existence in currents of wind. This monoku brings to mind Buddhist views on impermanence – everything changes and nothing lasts forever. A doctrine that for many brings comfort.

& here are the rest of the selections:

red autumn leaves
against a blue sky . . .
I, too, will leave this life
on a high note

Corine Timmer
Portugal/The Netherlands


longest journey…
returning into
star light

Deborah Karl-Brandt
Bonn, Germany


crickets instead of church bells

Allyson Whipple
St. Louis, MO


wilted daffodils…
the fleeting tick-tock
of the wall clock

Jackie Chou
United States


saved plot the greening of my parent’s graves

martin gottlieb cohen
Egg Harbor, NJ U.S.


no more fuss…
where are my cigarettes?

Mike Fainzilber
Rehovot, Israel


Queen Anne’s lace
calls me home

marilyn ashbaugh
edwardsburg, michigan


this life
the darkness
between fireflies

Bryan Rickert
Belleville, Illinois USA


dandelion . . .
all that remains
of my dreams

Rosa Maria Di Salvatore
Catania (Italy)


a brief flight
of a paper kite
one’s whole life

Nikola Đuretić
Zagreb (Croatia)


remodeled park
some other old woman
feeds the pigeons

Danijela Grbelja
Sibenik, Croatia


queen of the night
after a short fantasy
a long sleep

Teiichi Suzuki


on the day
I finally let go
dandelion puff

Tony Williams
Scotland, UK


after blooming….
I’ll not fear sharing
the lily’s destiny

Robert Kingston
Chelmsford, United Kingdom


this year too
dogwood buds…
my unsaid goodbye

Madhuri Pillai


fading star
one last twinkle
of my dancing toes

Tracy Davidson
Warwickshire, UK


already as dead as I can be new moon

Surashree Joshi
Pune, India


butterfly the relativity of ephemeral

Mirela Brăilean


engraver’s family discount
the date after my dash

Caroline Giles Banks
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA


outgoing tide
I add my goodbye
to the tossed bottle

Pris Campbell


.at the bottom
of my to do list
death poem

Sheila Sondik
Bellingham, WA (USA)


floating sunshine
I am the water
the water is me

Minal Sarosh
Ahmedabad, India


crumpled fuchsia
every flower
I have loved

Colette Kern
United States


a sky full of stars
oceans of sea-thrift
my brief life

J E Jeanie Armstrong
Canterbury UK


old clock chimes
the pianist plays
his last note

Sherry Grant
Auckland, New Zealand


what wakes us
lays us to rest

Laurie Greer
Washington, DC


life support
a plastic daffodil
atop the pen

Richard Matta
San Diego, California USA


The last grain falls —
The hand turns the hourglass:
I’m still here

Jenny Shepherd
London, UK


knowing nothing
about the road ahead
a wild iris blooms

Lori Kiefer
London, UK


morning glories
joys end
too soon

Susan Farner


final chorus
my ukulele fades
to silence

Louise Hopewell


sakura viewing
the way the last bloom fades
the world

Joe Sebastian
Bangalore, India


bequeathing these bones
to science

Mariel Herbert
California, USA


all that I seek
is seeking me
wheat harvest moon

Carole Harrison
Jamberoo, Australia


will flowers be
the only reward

Carol Reynolds


finds us all
cicada husk

James Gaskin
Fukushima, Japan


that I will not see wither …..
autumn wind

Angiola Inglese


the deaths
I have missed in the process
of living

Vijay Prasad
Patna, India


fra la notte e l’alba
conto i miei anni…
così leggero il vento

between night and dawn
I count my years ….
so light is the wind

Giuliana Ravaglia
Bologna Italia


my coffee mug
van Gogh’s Almond Blossom
my burial urn

Maxianne Berger
Outremont, Quebec


a star-filled sky
the pinholes
in my casket

M. R. Defibaugh


cape jasmine . . .
all that I shall remember
on my deathbed

Milan Rajkumar
Imphal, India


dandelion clock …
the time it takes
to make a last wish

Annie Wilson
Shropshire, UK


Life –
a snowflake
on the palm

Ivan Ivančan


pressed pear petals
how light-bodied
I become

Maya Daneva
The Netherlands


the zinnia knows
it’s time

Margaret Tau
New Bern, North Carolina


purple crocuses…
the first
and the last

Nancy Brady
Ohio, USA


deep blue twilight
burning in the sky
one more star

Jonathan English
Washington, DC


let loose at last my love this driftwood swan song

Kath Abela Wilson
Pasadena, California, USA


all I know are sad songs these day lilies

Pippa Phillips
Kansas City, MO


and what
last flower
shall we sip . . .
dear hummingbird

wendy c. bialek
az, usa


striking my last match funeral candle

Seretta Martin
California, USA


last wave
scent of the sea
in my bones

Carol Judkins
Carlsbad, CA


I wonder what’s left
of my life

Florin C. Ciobica


twilight the pen running dry

P. H. Fischer
Vancouver, Canada


wave after wave
do they know
how they end?

Ingrid Baluchi
North Macedonia


just like
a falling maple leaf…
I shall go

Ram Chandran


Indian summer
the old cat absorbs
his last bit of sun

Terri French


pasque once vibrant…
now pale in the coming
of my winter

Pat Geyer
East Brunswick, NJ USA


high tide coming
a shell becomes
a part of the sea

Zelyko Funda


funeral pyre
a pile
of tattered pride

Amrutha Prabhu
Bengaluru, India


winter ends the pallor of pheasant eye white



mute swan
I forever hold
my peace

John Pappas
United States


not the cymbals or butter lamps
just the musk rose

Sonam Chhoki


mayfly . . .
its one-day life followed
by its shadow

Tomislav Maretić


last breath…
all those years
of not living

Mona Bedi
Delhi, India


midnight sea sings a cappella

Helen Buckingham
United Kingdom


this train
headed for the horizon . . .
a firefly’s glow

Jonathan Roman
Yonkers, New York


Were we even flowers?
Dried honesty in an old vase,
those dark eyes

Sarah Davies
Bedford, UK


Who knows that the horizon is not
a path

Chissà che l’orizzonte non sia
un sentiero

Maria Cezza
Maglie – Lecce – Italia


Guest Editor Carole MacRury resides in Point Roberts, Washington, a unique peninsula and border town that inspires her work. Her poems have won awards and been published worldwide, and her photographs have been featured on the covers of numerous poetry journals and anthologies. Her practice of contemplative photography along with an appreciation of haiku aesthetics helps deepen her awareness of the world around her. Both image and written word open her to the interconnectedness of all things; to surprise, mystery and a sense of wonder. She is the author of In the Company of Crows: Haiku and Tanka Between the Tides (Black Cat Press, 2008, 2nd Printing, 2018) and The Tang of Nasturtiums, an award-winning e-chapbook (Snapshot Press 2012).

Lori Zajkowski is the Post Manager for Haiku Dialogue. A novice haiku poet, she lives in New York City.

Managing Editor Katherine Munro lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and publishes under the name kjmunro. She is Membership Secretary for Haiku Canada, and her debut poetry collection is contractions (Red Moon Press, 2019). Find her at:

The Haiku Foundation reminds you that participation in our offerings assumes respectful and appropriate behavior from all parties. Please see our Code of Conduct policy.

Please note that all poems & images appearing in Haiku Dialogue may not be used elsewhere without express permission – copyright is retained by the creators. Please see our Copyright Policies.


This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. thank you for this series….carole….and the wonderful inspiration and education you are sharing here.
    thank you for including my death poem on the long list.
    some of the deepest joy of my life currently comes from the visits i receive from the very hummingbirds that were born from a nest built on my patio’s ceiling fan/light fixture. they visit the flowers in our garden and the glass feeders i hang. i have become so close to them, and enjoy these visits so much….that i have put off all medical procedures until they migrate, after our monsoons.

    i love, love, love hearing everyone’s death poem here!

    one (not already commented on) that also caught my funny bone:

    engraver’s family discount
    the date after my dash

    Caroline Giles Banks

    this one holds such wisdom:

    last breath…
    all those years
    of not living

    Mona Bedi

    and spot on for the transience of life:

    a snowflake
    on the palm

    Ivan Ivančan

    1. Thanks Wendy, for sharing a few favorites and a little backstory to your poem! Always welcome.

  2. Congratulations to all the poets for such outstanding haiku. I feel, see, hear the intransigence of life in them. Thanks, Carole, for including one of mine in this week’s group. I appreciate it.

  3. Thanks Carole for adding one of mine, congratulations to all the other authors.

  4. Grateful dear Carole on selecting my monoku for your commentary. which added so much value to my simple ku.
    All the selections are superb and your prompt brought to us again the reality of the fragility & transience of human life.

    I really appreciated the depth in the monoku by petro c.k.—

    my spirit a dust mote carried in the sunbeam

    petro c. k.
    Seattle, Washington

    Thanks for your beautiful commentary on all the selected haiku. I feel deeply honored to be in this list.

  5. Interesting that we can afford to be light-hearted and/or philosophical about our own deaths, but not to those of family and close friends. Death remains a touchy subject to be approached with care because of the many considerations people may have…personal circumstances, religious beliefs, etc.
    Dying, however, is something else. I believe the concern most would have is not so much of the unknown – the what happens after – but of the physical aspects associated with the dying process, whether it is our own or anyone else’s.
    Another thought just cropped up looking at the broader picture; is there a certain amount of egocentric arrogance in composing one’s own death poem?

    1. That’s not to say that composing jisei for oneself isn’t of great comfort! I enjoyed all this week’s poems, and, of course, appreciate being included.

      1. Thank you Ingrid. I enjoyed learning more about the Japanese death poem and hope that many of you did too. Especially as so many of our haiku poets now write them. Death can be a touchy subject for westerns and realize the concept of a personal death poem might be new and strange to people other than the Japanese. Although many haiku poets are familiar with the concept and have read the book I mentioned. I personally don’t find it egocentric and instead find it healing. In fact, I think I was drawn to haiku because of its focus on the transience of life. For me, it makes each moment of life more precious knowing how short it can be. And yes, I’ve written many poems to those I’ve lost, and haiku poets do this so well too! When one of us pass, we write poems to remember them….a ritual we are more comfortable with perhaps than contemplating our own deaths. I appreciate your kind words.

  6. Hi Carole
    Loved reading all the poems,enjoying a death poem would be a contradiction in terms but yes the enjoyment lies in the haikai flavour. I totally loved Vandana’s take on the subject. Neena’s monoku is so well done too. I was also inspired to write and was happy with my poems but perhaps I might have focused on the transience part of it. Thanks for all your hard work.

    1. Thank you Arvinder. Over 300 poems…a tough decision always, and many fine poems not selected I expect to see published in the future.

  7. Every poem here is outstanding. If I can respond with a personal note as others have, I’ll say that my mother passed recently enough that I’m reminded throughout this column. The tradition of writing death poems seems one of the healthiest, soundest practices anyone can follow. Thanks for this prompt, Carole.. And thanks to all for these heartfelt and artful pieces. They make a difference.

    1. Laurie, I am so sad to hear of your mother’s death and offer you my condolences. Yet…I am overjoyed that you could feel the comfort in recognizing the transience of life, not only of our loved ones, but ourselves. It makes each day precious. Haiku hasn’t been the called the healing poetry for nothing. Basho said that each poem was his death poem. And my own experiences, after my mothers death, when I was just exploring haiku, proved to me this healing power of haiku. I walked through a typical old growth forest, feeling my recent loss, when I came across a nurse log. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head when I witnessed a new tree springing forth from a fallen one. Thank you for taking on this challenge. I realize it was going to be a challenge for some. Our online friends go through many things without our being aware, loss, serious sickness so hopefully this theme has comforted a few.

  8. Hello there. I submitted a death poem last week, and a poem the week before, too. I didn’t see last week’s poem in last week’s list, or this week’s poem here in this list. Does anyone know, is that because only some of the poems are listed? Or, maybe I am not submitting correctly? Thanks. I have enjoyed reading everyone else’s poems. What a lovely thing to do!

    1. Hi Marica,

      I hope you are enjoying and benefiting by Haiku Dialogue writing prompts. We receive hundreds of poems and select a small number for commentary along with a longer list. There are many poems not selected by editors but we hope that the Haiku Dialogue prompts inspire your muse.

      1. Oh, thank you, Carole, for explaining this. That makes sense.
        I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t posting my poems into the ether!

        1. No problem Marcia. All poems are sent to me, but unfortunately we have no way to acknowledge receipt.

    2. @Marcia Burton. I understand how you feel; it is disappointing not to have a haiku selected, but I just keep submitting and realize that my haiku may not be worthy especially considering all outstanding haiku the editors get each week. However, it is just a matter of time…it will happen and you’ll be thrilled to see your name in print. Best of luck, Marcia.

      1. Thank you for your kindness, Nancy. Of course I would prefer for my poem to be selected…..and I thought, like the kukai, that all of the poems were being listed and I had come up a technical glitch. Now that I have that cleared up, I can relax about it. 🙂
        Best of luck to you, too!

  9. Thank you so much for selecting and commenting on my monoku. I am honored to be among such excellent works.
    These all hit much harder for me as I had a dear friend pass away yesterday and I had attended a memorial for another over the weekend. Poetry is indeed a healing force and I appreciate all of you for your works featured here. Thank you.

    1. I’m so sorry you have suffered these losses ck, and yes, poetry is a healing force, especially haiku, which its emphasis on the transience of life. I hope this theme brought your comfort.

  10. It looks like I hit the c instead of the f. lol Great selection to show there’s still beauty in death. It should be a celebrated part of life instead of a dreaded endpoint. If you tell someone you are working on a death poem, they will look at you strangely, though. Be sure to explain it well.

    1. M.R. Defibaugh, I certainly enjoyed your poem! For me, it had a soft edge of humor. If you are interested in the subject of the death poem, I highly recommend “Japanese Death Poems by Yoel Hoffman”. Among haiku poets who began their journey studying the Japanese masters, the death poem is not strange and many of our contemporary poets left behind a death poem, or two. And yes, as you said, it should be a celebrated part of life and hopefully this theme and the poems chosen show the myriad of ways we approach the idea of our own death.

      1. Thank you for information about death poems Carole, I’m really interested in these – and for all your great commentaries and information and, of course, your art. I am so much enjoying the Language of Flowers theme and constantly re-read the blog and the wonderful selections of poems you choose. And thank you for including mine.

        1. Thank you Jeanie. . It’s so good to hear you’ve enjoyed the theme. I had great fun assembling it! 🙂

      2. Thanks for finding some humor in it! It’s important to find humor whenever and wherever we can. I noticed a few with that tinge as I also saw Parashar’s mockingbird offering us some comic relief. There were others I found some comedy in for being so matter-of-fact:

        crickets instead of church bells
        Allyson Whipple

        remodeled park / some other old woman / feeds the pigeons
        Danijela Grbelja

        Finally! / no more fuss… / where are my cigarettes?
        Mike Fainzilber

        I will be sure to check out that book! It’s only strange to the uninformed.

  11. Thank you, Carole, for selecting mine and for your comment. I guess I have reached the age of accepting the inevitable although I hope to deadhead a few more years of daffodils!

  12. Mine was a death poem for my mother. I see her every time I return to it.
    Thank you

    1. I would never have guessed it was about your mother, Mike. I’m happy to hear your poem brings her back to you. I found your poem open to interpretation, especially when it comes to cigarettes…or the finality of something demanding a cigarette! Lots to imagine there.

      1. She was a heavy smoker and a no nonsense lady, I tried to imagine her reaction to passing… . But as is said, a haiku/senryu is not complete until it is read, and then the interpretations are up to the reader. Thank you again, very much indeed

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