The life of the body

This entry is part 16 of 20 in the series Highgate Cemetery Poems


cemetery piano

The life of the body never ends—
this is why sensualists
are always so damn cheerful.
It goes on working down there
in that city the soil, busy
as a bodhisattva with 1000 arms
or a leaderless hive of bees.
The life of the body has
its own directive: to reproduce,
yes, but not only in the way
we think. Consider the big-
brained octopus, how its skin
can change in an instant to match
the color & pattern of the background
into which it wants to disappear,
shutting its eyes that do not see
in color, that never sleep.
The life of the body doesn’t end
at our borders. It’s a kind of music
that starts far below the pulse,
reverberating in the vast spaces
on either side of the present moment,
punctuated with every length of rest.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. “It’s a kind of music
    that starts far below the pulse”

    yes. and it’s a doorway into the life of the other parts of us


  2. Terrific.

    And it resonates. Been reading about the body, and watching a fascinating octopus video. This suits my mind. Thank you!


  3. Thanks for the kind comments, y’all. Deb, I think it was your sharing of that octopus video that made me add those extra lines in the middle yesterday, which much improved this over what went out via email the night before last. This was one of these poems where I got part of an idea and then stalled out, and had to force myself to finish it.


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