I don’t know why my mother gave me up at birth or how many cousins walk the streets of Lisbon or where I lost my first tooth I don’t know what became of the nickel or why the tooth fairy was so tight or who will wash the blood from the streets of Basra I don’t know how my Walkman eats batteries like Hostess Twinkies or why fungus grows underground or why the Somali child stares through starving eyes I don’t know why my dough rises, only to fall mockingly, or why forced to eat matzoh, the Jews didn’t go back to Egypt or why I poke my sore knee to insure it hurts
I don’t know my birthright name.
First Appeared in Children, Churches and Daddies, Vol. 141, October 2004.
We kept them together to protect them, he said, though we did make the men wear the red And yellow badge. You must understand, this was for their good. We didn’t want them corrupted by our Catholicism, so we had to ensure we would not mingle with and debase them. There were our bankers, without them the King would’ve made tax demands on us and a kingdom cannot long survive on the broken backs and empty pockets of its people. And anyway, they knew they need not comply, after all what’s a pound of silver fine to a Jew.
Ninety-six years ago today Women gained the right to vote. It would be another five before those who preceded the lot of us were blessed with citizenship, the least we could offer, after our prior gifts of disease, alcoholism and down sizing. Who, our forebears must have imagined, wouldn’t want to live somewhere they had a reservation in their name we had given them, their land taken with their language, no longer useful in our shared world. The King of France allowed only the Jews to be moneylenders, reserved space in each town for us as well, for which we are still told we should be thankful, but you have no idea how to say so in Navajo.
“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”-Shelley
I write because words must be said words must be said because they eat at my tongue they eat at my tongue because they recall the flames of the ovens they recall the flames of the ovens because they were forced to shower they were forced to shower because they were Jews they were Jews because they embraced Torah they embraced Torah because they walked through the desert they walked through the desert because they followed the trail of manna they followed the trail of manna because it led to freedom it led to freedom because I saw it in a dream I saw it in a dream because a voice whispered it to me a voice whispered it to me because I write