“I am signaling you through the flames.”  –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Out of the darkness

Associated with dreamless sleep,

A series of images bubble to the surface

Like air pockets in the primordial ooze

Of a tar pit.

Prehistoric oxygen,

Trapped for eons,

Mad for a taste of sunlight.


To say “death”

Is to conjure up a thousand morbid thoughts.


Like the Dance of Death,

Where one sidesteps with the Reaper

Cheek to cheek,

Until the soul is led by an escort of angels

To become a part of the universe.


Living on society’s edge,

The addicted and the damned cry out into the night,

Clawing at their skin and reaching out for something as yet unattainable

Within a graveyard of trees.

In the dull pallor of a streetlight’s glow,

Their bodies contort into a myriad of frightening shapes.


Lying in the grass,

Not far away,

Is a red Solo cup,

A sure sign that I’ve entered someone’s drunken hallucination,

(Delirium tremens is, in fact, contagious,)

But my consciousness is drifting down the Mekong,

Or the Yangtze,

Or any river in Asia

Upon whose shores both farmers and bodhisattvas

Eke out their seemingly meaningless existence

Making a living or seeking enlightenment.


Baptism by fire

Is the only way to purge oneself of inner turmoil and strife

In this day and age.

Thus, with gasoline and a lighted match,

I situate myself in the dead center of a busy intersection

And burst into flame

Amid the shouts and chaos

That surround me.

Shanti, shanti, shanti.

© Chester Sakamoto