Commemorating the yahrzeit of Bugzy Drebin a"h. This poem is for his mother.
Psalm for a Son’s Burial
Hush now, it must be written somewhere
that death is the domain of men.
The father, spent, eulogizes the son –
or the brother, the husband – and he knows his time
for sleep is done. They grab the shovels
and empty the last of the balm of hurt minds
into the void, then they cover your heartbeat
in a silence broken by a rustle and chuff,
And somewhere, too, it must be written
that birth is the domain of women.
The mother who conceived and carried
and birthed you in blood shakes - the vessel
whose cracks have yawned into fissures
splits wide open, her center cannot hold,
her head shakes no and again no no
again, and the women, they crush in closer,
to enfold the mother who lost you last night,
to press her brittleness back,
Hush now, but you were supposed to stay alive.
Your mother’s loved Kaddish’l, you were meant
to be the one to stand in the pelting rain
skirring across the graveyard’s sheeted ice,
and recite the way it should always have been:
when the mother goes, the son stands and recites.
Hush now, your mother hides a husk for a heart
and a stone sits deep where her soul once pulsed.
Listen now the silence, so loud and hard -
no echo struggles up through the snowy loam
that blankets your body so finally. No harm
any longer, finally. No harm no breath no laugh
no life. What version of sanity brings you so soon
to this quell of quiet, to this farewell place,
to the end of the world on a stillborn afternoon
in a whiteout blizzard as white as the shroud,
as numbing and raw as the spotless tallis
embracing now your earthly remains?
Today they put you in the frozen ground,
a frigid trifecta for the meteorologists.
Snow. Sleet. Hail the almighty
storming spirit. We can hear heaven
pinging pinging ice pellets of shock
onto the wooden board that separates
your earthly remains, so recently quick,
from us who remain, stunned, on the earth.
We the women who remain on the earth
remain standing, shuttered and stooped
around your huddled mother, double-bent,
fending off the great wingèd capes
of the vulture umbrellas clustered like shadow
angels of death gently nudging our shoulders,
reminder of how feeble is the attempt
to hope and hide and shelter in place.
A mother of five is always counting heads.
Leaving your grave, counting heads. One
gone missing. She worries you’ll be cold,
you’re way too skinny, she never liked the sound
of that cough and you, you refused to eat
the healthy stuff. So hush now, hush.
Your mother will survive you, bleeding inside,
by counting heads. Four remain.
This poem was published in 3Elements Literary Review
(Issue 14, Spring 2017)