Celebrating Death in Life – A Poem by Sam Hamill

American Poet, editor and publisher, Sam Hamill (1943-April 14th, 2018)Photo Credit:3QuarksDaily

The Orchid Flower

Just as I wonder
whether it’s going to die,
the orchid blossoms

and I can’t explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure

comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower

opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.

Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it’s
purely erotic,

pistil and stamen, pollen,
dew of the world, a spoonful

of earth, and water.
Erotic because there’s death
at the heart of birth,

drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,

deepest mystery
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,

who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.

Sam Hamill from Habitation, Lost Horse Press, 2014

It’s been a few weeks more than a year since Sam Hamill died. So many beloved poets gone during this time. For the link to my post written last year celebrating his extraordinary life in poetry please click here. I came across this poem a few weeks ago and it seemed so appropriate. This terrible and wonderful dance between life and death. These conjoined twins. And in my life this dance so present. The birth of my grand daughter Eowyn during this time of mourning the death of Patrick Lane my beloved poetry mentor and teacher.

I remember Hamill reciting this poem a few years ago at the Cascadia Poetry Festival after his wife had died. The poignancy of that. And the poignant reminder to me knowing that death, too, will take me in its arms, to see all the beauty, all the life around me. Even all the death in life, some of it not pretty including wars, genocides and the dying of so much of the earth’s flora and fauna. To praise, as Adam Zagajewski says, this mutilated world!




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