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Psalm for a Son's Burial

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,

the men.

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,

the women.

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)

©2016 by Deborah Kahan Kolb. Proudly created with Wix.com