Gershon Hepner

Only when Recollecting Our Despair

Only when we’re recollecting our despair

can we communicate it. We don’t ever care

to do so when we’re sorely overcome by it.

Communication does not bring a benefit

to us or those with whom we wish to share

despair that we are feeling, and make them aware

of pain. That’s why halakhah says that it is wrong

to ask a mourner how he feels until he’s strong

enough to recollect the feelings that he cannot

put into words when they’re so strong they are not what

can be expressed, and are whereof we cannot speak,

as Wittgenstein explained with philosophic chic.


Remember this when you hear music that sounds sad.

Be sure that the composer did not feel as bad

as you feel hearing what he’s written. Jeremiah,

according to what I am claiming here, felt higher

when writing “Lamentations” than when first dejected

by the destruction of a city all the world respected,

its loss and loss of its self-sacrificing martyrs,

recalling, just like Schubert in his last sonatas,

despair, he then recorded in his song “Der Leiermann,”

like “Lamentations” by a holier, higher man.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at