On Sabbath By Shoshana Tehila Surek

On Sabbath

When Father turned his face to the East,
stirring vegetables, the color of lamb,
he prayed in iambic pentameter for a son.
Sons understand the Talmudic conversation, have
traces of teffilin on arms, which alone could
leave a son’s skin a pallid green.

Beets and horseradish steep liquid green
while modest women encourage children East.
Woman feels beneath her modesty, alone, before
she is led to slaughter, a tender lamb.
Husband has never had the conversation, but
wagers her worth on producing his son.

Quiet and unsure, skin folds around the son.
Black Torah ink, press to lips, turns green.
Closed doors allow modest conversation, allow
kneeling, paper prayers, allow East
to rise on wooden altar, stained by blood, by lamb,
Spread and held, forever altered, left to die alone.

Naked and ashamed, she is left to protest alone, to
hide from her body, from the eyes of her son,
to paint blood on her doorway, blood from the lamb, to
represent her tears with salt, with water, with green,
turning away from the ritual of the East,
breaking tradition to begin a new conversation.

Beauty, the son says, can be found in conversation,
but not in a dialogue one must have alone.
Taking Woman’s hand, he beckons all from the East, to
unbind daughters and to release the son.
Shamayim, erets, yarohk, heaven, earth, as green
abundance, fattens each of us with God’s lamb.

From between teeth Woman finds pieces of lamb
large enough to invade the conversation.
Truths are hidden behind Father, behind ropes of green
embroidered scrolls, telling the son to be alone,
to be modest and to be man, not daughter, but son.
Pray this, they say, when you are facing the East.

Bruised tradition, black and green, modesty manipulates conversation.
Covered women ladling lamb, awaiting Shamayim, alone.
Again, and again, and again, always East. The men will have their Son.

By Shoshana Tehila Surek


I am a first-generation American and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, which informs all of my work. I received my MA and MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University. My essays, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry, can be read or are forthcoming in Carve Magazine, december Magazine, SmokeLong Quarterly, Malahat Review, Vestal Review, Cease, Cows, 3Elements Review, and f(r)iction Magazine. In 2017, I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and I am a 2019 Curt Johnson Prose Award finalist. More of my work can be found at www.ShoshanaSurek.com.

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