by Lynne Marie Rosenberg
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I traverse this city of immigrants, and absorb sites and try to process what we all are. What it could possibly mean that we move and dance and crawl and cry and fuck and rut and explode and forgive and get stuck and name things and pierce our bodies and tattoo our skin and brand our hearts with the experience of other beings doing the same thing. What the fuck are we all doing? What is this structure I sit in, this organized little collection of pages I write in, which record these words we created that can't possibly describe the multitudes within me?
What is this me? This great-great-grandchild of Jews slaughtered in mass graves, who never could have imagined the life I lead, or the city of immigrants I inhabit. Never could have imagined the ways in which their ripples would impact the pond of the universe, the erosions of its shore through my current. Never could have told their daughter, my great grandmother, when she left the village: Go, Edith. Get to America. You will set into motion scientists and artists and engineers and architects and painters and dancers and creators and one small Helper who wants to save all sentient beings, but has no idea what that means, or what that entails, or why we’re even here in the first place.
Go, Edith. Go, daughter. Get on a boat and go to a place I will never understand. Make a beautiful baby, who will make a beautiful baby, who will make a beautiful baby, who will struggle to heal the planet in tiny and immeasurable ways, all while feeling the weight of my sacrifice and yours. I, your mother, will be taken to a ditch in the forest and shot by those who are sickened by fear and ignorance. I will be treated as inhuman but you will continue on. Go, Edith.
I, Lynne, will not continue this lineage. Not in human form. What does it mean to be uninterested in the propagation of your ancestor’s DNA, when so much sacrifice has been made for you to exist? The fruits of my existence will not walk the earth, but float, unseen, unmanifest, in the hearts and minds of the few whose lives I manage to touch. What goal, then, could I possibly choose other than saving the world? What right do I have other than to gather my gifts in my arms, cradle them as my precious children, and bathe them in the wash of my tears? Curate their power and offer them, their merit, to the world and to myself. And how do I do all of this, with no attachment to outcome? To offer it humbly in the face of impossibility? Merely the Worthiness of Doing. Doing and being at all.
I was gifted with your existence for the first four years of my life, Edith. Nanny. An old, nonverbal person who drew with me with pastels. Whose only words by the end were Beautiful Baby. Beautiful Baby. Me. The Beautiful Baby. Do I feel so connected to you, Nanny, because you were nonverbal, and I was barely thus? Because your spirit could so clearly communicate its love to me when your mind was no longer burdened with words?
I feel you with me. When I pick up a pen I feel you with me. Present. Being. I feel your mother’s sacrifice. I feel the forest ditch. The beautiful baby, carrying on all of your heart and mind, without words. Without Offspring. In a city of immigrants. Just being.
Inspiration: This is a piece about my great grandmother, Edith, and the responsibility I feel to an inheritance of life in this country.