Kaddish, A Song for Two Voices

silent we stand
in summer’s trampled grass
the same sun
that blistered the face of Moses
bleaches color from this day

elbow to elbow
in heat without breeze
a long breath held
then in an agony
of exhalation we begin

            yit’gadal v’yit’kadash sh’mei raba

ancient prayer
pours over and out of me
we are a chorus of voices
that rises like a cloud hovers
like smoke above a fire

            b’al’ma di v’ra khir’utei
            b’chayeikhon uv’yomeikhon

we stand clustered
the dead watch over us
they know this prayer
having repeated it before
it was ever said for them

            ba’agala uviz’man kariv
            v’im’ru amein

not a distinct memory
each line fills
the vacuum
of my consciousness
one word at a time

            y’hei sh’mei raba m’varakh
            l’alam ul’al’mei al’maya

there is comfort
in the familiar
reassurance
in the tempo
strength in the affirmation

            yit’barakh v’yish’tabach
            v’yit’pa’ar v’yit’roman v’yit’nasei

a bee buzzes between
blossoms of clover
close to my feet
I am not a flower
I am an empty husk

            v’yit’hadar v’yit’aleh v’yit’halal

the man beside me
rocks gently forward and back
toe to heel
heel to toe
his lips move without sound

            sh’mei d’kud’sha b’rikh hu
            l’eila min kol bir’khata v’shirata

before us the earth
lies open welcoming
in another religion
it would be a mouth open
to receive the sacrament

            toosh’b’chatah v’nechematah
            da’amiran b’al’mah v’im’ru amein

when the recitation ends
we file forward
step cautiously
in our high heels and oxfords
around the mound of earth

            v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yis’ra’eil
            v’im’ru amein

and in turn grasp
the shaft of the spade
its blade biting hard
into loose soil
beside the open grave

            oseh shalom bim’romav
            hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu

hear a hollow drop onto wood
grit slides in whispers
along the coffin lid
banks around the edges
this is final

            v’al kol yis’ra’eil
            v’im’ru amein

this is emptiness
without words
a hole filled with dirt
the last white space

            v’im’ru amein

Lynn DeTurk lives in Southern California and Tors Cove, Newfoundland. In the few years she has studied poetry she has published in a number of literary journals and anthologies, most recently the Lost Coast Review, the Kentucky Review, the University of Virginia’s Hospital Drive and The MacGuffin.

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