This poem came out of the December 1, 2009 poetry fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from natasiakith. This is actually the extra freebie poem you get when someone new participates in the fishbowl; sorry it's late. New prompters this month were natasiakith, Anthony Barrette, Doug Edwards, and probably the Anonymous person. The liturgies mentioned in the poem are colloquially called "The Egyptian Book of the Dead" and "The Tibetan Book of the Dead." I have instead used the best translation of their original names that I could find. These are real texts and should be treated with respect.
Books of the Dead and the Living
The Egyptians wrote a book of the dead,
Spells of Going Forth by Day,
scratched out on papyrus scrolls,
illustrated in gold leaf
and tucked into sarcophagi beside the slain.
The Tibetans wrote a book of the dead,
Great Liberation Through Hearing,
describing the passage through the intermediate state,
past the buddhas and dakkis and dakinis
into rebirth once more.
The Americans write books for the living,
not for the dead,
and then wonder
why the dead hang around
lost in the liminal mists between here and There.