Be on your way

Never look back
Lest your feet forget their going
For sure the sigh will rise
Stick fast in the throat
And force a sob to dissolve

Goodbyes are said
And so saying it is done
Certain as the final curtain
Drawn until the next action
Au revoir invokes a get-out clause
A sop

Dishonest really these concessions
No one ever fell asleep eternally
Passed on - they died.
And we who stay to wave them off
Must let them go with God

Simply shocking though that is
There's no gainsaying, no pardons
Disbelief all round
Still with this sense of abandon
Let's keep their names

Lest they look back
And feet forget their going
For sure a sigh will rise
Stick fast in the throat
And force a sob to dissolve

"Be on your way"
is all we ever need to say

Note: Leonard Cohen maintained his Judaism always and thus was buried in an Orthodox cemetery alongside generations of his family. Nevertheless he considered other truths through zen buddhism and so after his recent death I returned to read the Tibetan “Bardot Thodol” with its instructions for journeying in the afterlife. Mine is an old copy but today I found a video version, narrated by none other than Leonard Cohen. How’s that for synchronicity!  I am not necessarily an advocate but there is food for thought here: Tibetan Book of the Dead

Linking this poem with Toads’ Tuesday Platform. It was invoked by a recent prompt of Walter J. Wojtanik  on ‘sweet sorrow’.

40 thoughts on “Be on your way

    1. that’s reassuring Kiki – thank you – when words move us they gain meaning

  1. Be on your way”
    is all we ever need to say

    One’s calling is a personal thing during one’s lifetime. The family may likely decide only upon the demise and other mortals bid farewells irrespective of whatever had been decided. That being so here for a luminary that stood out!


    1. his burial place was a chosen wish (died last Monday and only made public on Thursday after the funeral)

      and Leonard would have said: “I’ll be on my way”

  2. And these words are so meaning full. Thank you so much too for that link to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I’ve just had a quick look, and will save for later. What a very exquisite film and with Leonard’s fine narration. Am beginning to think that YouTube is some kind of treasure house. By accident we watched an excellent Alan Yentob film on Ken Russell last night. One revelation was the still photography of his pre-film making years – stunning compositions. His Delius film is on YouTube too.

    1. thank you for your appreciations Tish ❤
      -it's a longish video but there are 49 days of instruction to the departed lest we become a hungry ghost 😮
      -agree about youtube gems – am discovering Larkin here at the moment and bedtime listening to P.G. Wodehouse. The Russell stills sound intriguing

  3. Yes, it’s an interesting book – and an interesting point of view in your poem.

    1. thank you Rosemary – opening lines was advice my grandmother gave me from when I was very young and going off to boarding school. I found it less painful this way.

  4. “Goodbyes are said
    And so saying it is done
    Certain as the final curtain
    Drawn until the next action
    Au revoir invokes a get-out clause
    A sop”

    This is quite an interesting verse, nice imagery too,for religious thought always project to a life here after

    much love…

    1. thank you Donna and for taking the time to comment – hope you are on your way to full recovery

    1. thank you – Cohen’s leaving has left such a deep impression 😥

  5. Yes, I feel that sense of needing to move forward while also still looking back – this honors both in beautifully crafted phrases.

    1. Just made it in time for a wave to Walt and the great bard – I like that epithet!

  6. This stanza really struck a chord with me, Laura:
    ‘Lest they look back
    And feet forget their going
    For sure a sigh will rise
    Stick fast in the throat
    And force a sob to dissolve

    1. hence we must let the departed depart in peace – our last act of love.

      thank you Kim – the repetition of this stanza in the poem brought it full circle and made ready for the final couplet

  7. I don’t know why I’ve always thought of Books of the Dead as filled with instructions for passing to the Otherworld, but as you show here, such tomes are as much to teach the living how to let the dead go. A way of thought to free the ghosts. There’s some heavy verbal lifting before “Be on your way” — thanks for the consolation of showing that work can be done.

    1. when we assist the departed along we help ourselves to let them go – such is the Buddhist philosophy which makes such good sense – I like your ‘heavy, verbal lifting’ comment

  8. “Lest they look back
    And feet forget their going”

    Well, I for one love to speak their names and remember them. I don’t want to call them back – but I feel fortunate to believe they see the face of God and therefore sing with the angels and I can ask them to pray for me. I need all he help I can get. I do like your poem – find it fascinating.

    1. the philosophy only applies to the newly disembodied and confused soul which instead of seeking the face of God yearns to return – hence with our love we should encourage them onward. Am sure they will pray for us here and in our hereafter Margaret

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