Burial Rites — By Susan Carman

I look away when they bring in the coffin,

pink satin cradling a 14-year old innocent,

the age of my own son. His mother follows,


hollowed by grief, dark eyes vacant.

She has hardly slept, haunted by the crooked slant

of her son’s picture on the wall, a sign


his unsettled spirit searches for a resting place.

Shame compounds sorrow – her unbaptized boy denied

a burial mass in the Church, she is here, adrift among strangers.


She knows but one soul in this foreign church, where we try

to provide a measure of comfort in a tongue not our own.

We rehearse uncertain Spanish, pray our words convey respect.


Mariachis arrive, clad in ruffled shirts, silver-buttoned

black coats. They unpack their instruments, begin to play,

their plaintive songs weave us into common purpose.


At the communion rail, the chalice bearer repeats the words,

El Cuerpo de Cristo, La Sangre de Cristo.

Body of Christ, Blood of Christ.


Today we are one body, offering

solace to a grieving stranger,

wishing it were enough.

~ Susan Carman


Susan Carman is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and served as poetry co-editor for Kansas City Voices. Her poetry and essays have appeared in various publications, including Coal City Review, Catholic Digest, I-70 Review, Imagination and Place, and Kalliope. She likes to travel in her free time and in her writing.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate and the author or editor of over 20 books. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches, she also offers community writing workshops widely, and with Kelley Hunt, Brave Voice writing and singing retreats. She founded the 150 Kansas Poems site where she is thrilled to work with many fine guest editor poets and witness powerful writing from and about the heartland.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s