“Legacies to Live and Die For”

After “The Blue Terrace” by Terrance Hayes

I come from a long line of tiny Ukrainian women,
Their eyes sharp and blue, their hands calloused and yellow.
I once told my grandmother her hands were soft but she winced
and told me stories about how hard her hands used to work when
she was young;
the mountains she climbed, the children she fed, the hours she spent
practicing piano.
I come from Mongolian rapists and their terrified wives,
from a Cossack girl who sold herself into serfdom to be with her
from my Jewish grandfather who still has that scar on his stomach;
if you ask, he will tell you the story with a proud, twisted smile.
My grandfather wasn’t much of a fighter until he saw
a young Jewish boy being hunted on the streets of Odessa and
he knew this was his chance to save a life that wasn’t his own for
I wasn’t much of a fighter myself until I joined the long line of
battered women who don’t speak to their mothers
and knew that I would fight tooth and nail to let some legacies die.
I come from my father’s side of the family too,
Belarussian Sephardic Jews who survived so much
only to turn against each other and continue the pattern of violence.
We don’t talk about them unless we have to.
I come from wives who scream at their husbands because
that is the only way their mothers were heard.
I come from children who witnessed horrors
and lived long enough to tell the tale only to stay silent
for fear that they would be next. I was a silent child once
and still am, some days. Most days I talk too much,
trying to make up for my family’s centuries of silence.
We are here, I say. We are real. We survived, despite each other.
Please believe me. But I come from a family that
doesn’t believe its children when they say, he hurt me.
You hurt me. I hurt you. We’re working on that. We’re trying to get
better.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     I come from Holocaust survivors and amateur musicians and geologists and                                                                                           colorful Russian slippers, my Babushka’s тапки*.
My mother took in a stray cat when she was a child and loved it to
I promise someday I will love my own children to life. L’chaim.

*тапки (tapki) = slippers

College first-year Andy Roshal is a prospective Creative Writing
major and German and Linguistics double minor. They mostly write
poetry and memoirs. In this poem, Andy explores the complexities of
their Jewish and Slavic heritages and all of the beautiful and painful
experiences their family has lived through across generations. They
recognize the incredible strength of their family’s story of survival,
and hold hope for collective healing.