Ceremonial rights
by Claire Berger

The priests forbid it
They wouldn’t let us bury Stosh on sacred ground
Suicide is a mortal sin.
They won’t accept that

Nam killed him
As surely as it killed his brother whose exploded body
Was sent home
To be buried on sacred ground.

_______Often I wonder about that body.
_______Was it his body or just pieces of skin clinging to rotten bamboo sticks
_______Meticulously delivered
_______In a sealed box?

So they burned him.
Stosh, that is. His mother wailed as she clawed on her babushka,
Double –knotted in the back
Like Stosh’s noose.

His father raged against the priests and God and everyone else who still had sons
Who would live
To have sons of their own.

And they mourned
For their loss of faith, their loss of face, their loss of name,
But not for Stosh,
Not for the life of all his life.

And I, romantic schoolgirl,
Wanted them to leave him to be plucked at by predators ,
Birds of prey
That would tear his flesh

So I could be Antigone
And rush in, shoo them away and claw at the dirt to cover him,
Give up my life
To save him from such dishonor.

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