Tonight I take my rest filled with a sense of disappointment. In a world in dire need of peace we deny each other compassion. We seek to justify our perspective all the while ignoring the violence, pain and suffering our fellow man lives in. We let our pain excuse our cold hearts. We think ourselves the exception while we perpetuate a world divided and deny each other’s humanity. Pointing fingers, never accepting the blame. I was a child when I learned about my ‘otherness’ and I never wanted to continue that fight. Us vs Them till there’s nothing left but the ashes of the only gifts we ever got, the earth and each other.
I was born broken.
By virtue of my parent’s mistakes.
My earliest memories are of trouble.
I think the whole world broken
and doing its best
and therein lies the beauty of our Earth.
Redemptions for broken things.
Joy for the forsaken.
The accident of the cosmos.
The fact that we are
is so much of a miracle
that the core truth of it is something we might never comprehend.
And here we are.
Hiding from ourselves,
drowning out our pain with meaningless nothings
and we have the audacity to call it life.
Someday we’ll all be dead,
and I have no reason to believe there is some great beyond that is our salvation.
How could it be?
When we take our chaotic miracles and reduce it.
Are we scared?
Are we scared of being broken further?
Shattered in whole new ways.
Or are we scared of being saved.
Am I scared of being saved?
Of becoming all those people I resent?
I don’t know…
Even when I’m happy there’s still a piece of me that remains malcontent and Ican’thelpitandIcan’tfightitandIcan’ttellyou…why…it…is.
Maybe there are no remedies for broken people.
We all just try our best.
Hope for the best.
All the while
broken and breaking
and finding meaning
in the chaos
featured image by Avogado6
If who we are is simply the sum of our memories
then that means our entire existence is subject to chance.
There really is no meaning or purpose behind your life
because you could have been anyone.
Taking a left on your way home
instead of a right
could have meant a world of difference
to who you become.
Our own free will eliminates the possibility of grand design.
Our existence comes down to probability.
There is nothing deep down
that dictates who we are,
it is the imprint of our memories and experiences.
we cannot say
that we might take the same course,
conduct the same affairs.
Perception is what makes us.
We have perceptions of who we are and where we’ve been,
but perception is a fragile matter.
Perceptions change everyday,
perceptions can be imagined,
tricked, fooled, disproven,
but it is the only concrete thing we have
to understand the world around us.
If our perceptions can be tricked
and memories are the only thing
that makes us who we are
then isn’t it logical to say
that we are all fragile and non-existent.
It feels like I’m retching
you out of my mind,
scraping you from my memory
like an illness.
In a fevered daze,
Struggling to breathe
I purge your illness from myself
And I pray for relief
If I could burn every last vestige of you
I’d build a bonfire to the gods
I’d fill it with every cursed memory
Everything I wanted to say but didn’t
Because I spent too much loving you
Gave too much protecting you
If I could beg the gods, the saints, the angels
To get back everything I gave you, every sacrifice, myself
This is about love
and cigarettes and classic cool
like James Dean and Miles Davis
breezing down highways in drop tops,
once upon a time,
head full of dreams
like maybe yours is now.
The summer breeze makes these neon skies heavy and electric.
Magic happens in the summer time. When everyone is a child again,
full of hope, full of whimsy.
The fire flies become fairies.
Ice cream trucks become sirens.
Everywhere has an adventure
just waiting around the corner.
Friday, January 27, 2017
If it wasn’t for a certain stroke of so-called luck 50 years before my birth I would never have known my great-grandmother, affectionately called Oma because of her German heritage. This particular ‘luck’ struck my great-grandfather while he was walking home from work on a fall night in Germany, November 9th, 1938. My great-grandfather passed long before my birth so I don’t know what it was like for him, in an environment of ever-growing suspicion and hatred. I know that he was well off and can only imagine the added injury that would have invoked from other citizens, his supposed peers. At the time he would have been in his late thirties, with a wife and a 1-year-old daughter waiting for him at home. As he walked through the roads of his city he was stopped by SA officers. SA stood for Sturmabteilung, translated to Storm Detachment, the original soldiers of the Nazi party. These soldiers were sent to round up Juden and Opa happened to be the first on their list.
The stroke of luck is that this particular officer happened to be more concerned with money than murder. He was perfectly happy to take every cent my great-grandfather had in every bank account, all the money from his furniture store, every cent and walk away with his life, and more importantly to Opa, the lives of his wife and daughter. The officer told him who to talk to and what to say. Opa collected Oma and my infant grandmother and walked for three days to a ship that would carry them to America, to New York City, where they would become a butler and a cook, and start their lives from scratch, refugees in a new world. Decades later I visited Ellis Island with my brother and tried to imagine was it fear or hope that overwhelmed my family as they passed into this great nation? Were the people loving and kind or did they hurry them through their port as quickly as possible? Did my family feel relief as they looked over the New York harbor out into a skyline they hoped would welcome them with an open embrace?
Kristallnacht means shattered glass. Shattered glass littering the streets of a nation, the world transformed for millions, from a warm home to a reckless, violent dystopia. The rest of Oma and Opa’s family did not fair so well. The details are fuzzy as they’ve been passed down through the hands of time, but what we do know is that he ended up in Auschwitz sometime in the 40s. We don’t know what they did to him but that Josef Mengele did do something. Something heinous, that perhaps, for Oma’s sake, was best left unknown. He miraculously escaped when his bunkmate found money in a foreign account that hadn’t been seized to bribe the guards. Their original arrangement was for him and his brother, but his brother died before the money arrived. This Nazi guard told him to choose someone else. By happenstance, that someone else was Oma’s brother. He ended up in Israel, devout in his faith and grateful for a new life in Zion.
During these years Oma and Opa had saved enough money to buy a dairy farm in North Carolina where they raised their daughter and grew old tending to their new home. I wonder how often she wondered of her family’s ultimate fate. How many years did she go not knowing? She passed when I was 11 years old never having told me those stories. I had to hear these second-hand, passed down to me, the legacy left behind. Perhaps she never told me because of my age, and had she lived a little longer she may have. Or maybe not. Maybe she never wanted to reflect upon the painful memories of a world given into its darkest most irrational nature. It’s fears and prejudice. Maybe she thought that sharing kindness and faith was the better path. That those horrors were over and would never again come to pass.
While I miss my great-grandmother every day, wish she had been around to see me grow into the woman I’ve become, part of me is grateful she never had to live to see the disgrace and despair of the new America we find ourselves in. As a refugee, she found herself in a new country, with no friends, no family aside from her daughter and husband, no money, not even a suitcase, but she was able to build herself a new life and a new family to nourish her heart. She was lucky. She got here before anyone thought to ban Jews from the US. The United States did, however, issue a ban later. It costs thousands their lives. It prevented my great-grandmother from ever seeing her brothers and sisters, her mother and father again. Her father passed in the concentration camp her brother had escaped from. His name was Bernhardt, a name my brother now carries, a marking of a family legacy. Coming to an open and accepting nation made the difference between life and death for my family. I wouldn’t be able to exist without that. I have almost no relatives left on that side of the family. We were fortunate to be able to build anew after almost everything had been lost. What will happen to those today who never get the chance? Will they suffer and die at the hands of despots and dictators? Will they be left in no man’s land until eventually, they wink out of existence? Will they remain no one’s problem until it’s too late? Will fear and suspicion mar our lives and lead us down the path of injustice? Or will we learn from the mistakes of the past? Leave the specter of hate deep in our histories, an antiquated relic from centuries gone by. For the world sake, I hope we move beyond it and realize that our lives are far too short and meaningful to let this happen to any person, regardless of religion, regardless of race. That every person on this Earth deserves a chance at happiness, and they deserve a second chance too.
I am going to take a stand because my ancestors did the same for me. The least I can do is be a stalwart fighter, beat back oppression for the next generation.
I am going to take a stand because my great-grandparent’s survived the holocaust. They sacrificed everything they owned, everything they had ever known on the night of Kristnacht and walked for 3 days and nights to a boat, to go to a nation they had never seen to protect their daughter, my grandmother. They passed through Ellis Island and built new lives in a new city. Meanwhile, every member of our family suffered at the hands of Nazi’s and their ‘charismatic’ leader. I will take a stand because when I see suffering, I see the eyes of my great grandmother watching me, I see her kindness and strength.
I am going to take a stand because my grandmother, born in the Philippines, came of age in the heart of World War 2. Because my grandmother watched occupying Japanese forces murder her baby brother before her very eyes. I will fight, because my grandmother, as a teenager, was a guerilla fighter in the war. Because, at great risk to herself, she chose to fight back and protect her home and her family.
I will take a stand, because my first-generation American mother grew up interracial in 1950s inner city Baltimore, because she battled through segregation, through misogyny, she marched with Dr. King in DC. My mother raised a family and attended school so she could become the first black female public defender in the state of Maryland, a position that enabled her to keep fighting for justice for all.
I will fight because generations before this, my African ancestors were enslaved and fought against all odds, fought despite great loss, fought despite the pain and suffering, fought when they had no rights and were considered another man’s property. They fought against greater odds and still they won.
I will stand and I will fight, defiant till the end, because my indigenous ancestors fought and they lost, they fought against a system that still seeks to erase them from history, denigrate their customs, diminish their very lives and existence.
I will stand and fight, because even thousands of years ago, my Jewish ancestors walked their way out of Egypt, out of slavery, into a desert unknown to find their way.
I will stand and I will fight, defiant till the end. I am the resistance and the resistance is me. It is ingrained in my bones, pumping through me in every last drop of blood. It is every generation standing behind me, their spirits my encouragement, their legacy my guide.
finding myself at the end of this chapter,
terrified and uncertain and confronted with an ugliness
that feels as if it purveys the entirety of my soul
I find myself surrounded by spirits that prove the love in my heart
that makes me human,
makes me closer to God,
makes my life complete
in every way
and make me a better person
just for loving you oh so much.