“L’dor Va’dor”

We can’t pinpoint the original wound
that made parents of all our family’s daughters

set our teeth to points.

My bubbe dies vicariously on ancestry.com
squirrels away names and townships, aims correspondence

at strangers who share our blood
in what we aren’t sure she knows

is an attempted séance.

Brisk clicks at lineage, disappointment at the responding silence
bleeds into her caps-locked e-mail forwards:

FWD: in case anyone is WONDERING what I’m UP TO lately
FWD: today’s a GIFT that’s why it’s the PRESENT!! Appreciate each DAY we have LEFT!
FWD: YIDDISH QUIZ (very good words!) don’t let the culture DIE

As if exegesis could mend
present conditions, we scour her stories

for when griefs began to concatenate into chainmail,
made us mages of defence mechanisms.

We are charming at parties, capable in group projects,
fearsome in fights, mainstays of our therapists.

We privately clasp at cures for the Self
(please spare us the burden of bearing a Self)

brandish “should” at our daughters
even as it skewers our tongues.

We design wellness goals in the image
of alternate timelines

where no garden is trampled, no shtetl burned,
no father murdered, and no family Inquisitoned.

We treat history like a stain
we might still find the right solvent for.

Loss erodes to statistics, facts
gadding about our clavicles like summer sweat.

We are tough mothers, rough lovers, a pleasure
to have in class. Women erected from shoulders

put to wheels, who love by disappearing
problems, and not by word.

Mean tongues gleaned from
the abyssalpelagic province of ancestral memory

this syzygy of distance and care is my inheritance.

Dreams of eventually gentling
spark phosphenes behind our eyes, send stars careening

through our bloodstreams like splinters. A common hurt,
and in unluckiest circumstances, deadly.

What a shanda, to die of a splinter.
What embarrassment, to suffer such hope.