“They died for you!” the living say. “You’re their child! You turn your back on their sacrifices, you degrade their deaths. The cemeteries once full of life become barren because of you.”
I stand by their graves, martyrs who died for their beliefs, for who they were born. I strain to hear their voices through the tumult. I run my fingertips over the words on their headstones, words chosen by the living, and I know the child they birthed is the one I breastfeed now.
my womb is barren
but life spills from my body –
i birth books and thought
Some notes: The photo of the grave reminded me of my experience this past summer, standing outside the ancient Jewish cemetery in Worms, Germany. Outside because I visited Worms on a Saturday, when the cemetery is closed for Shabbat. The cemetery dates back to the eleventh century, just before the Crusades, when Christians on their way to recapture Jerusalem from Muslim rulers traveled through Europe and slaughtered hundreds of Jews along the way. I’m often told by my Orthodox Jewish family that my choice to leave Judaism is a disgrace to these martyrs’ memories. This haibun is a little bit of expression of my reaction to that claim. Leah Vincent (a fellow ex-ultra Orthodox woman) expresses some similar ideas in her paintings.
PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young (Friday Fictioneers)
The artist whose work I chose as “outsider art” to respond to is Leah Vincent. Her fabulous painting: