“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

Linked to Friday Fictioneers‘ photo prompt and to the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads “Outsider Art” prompt.

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:



10 thoughts on “Descendants

  1. Such an interesting notion–a really vivid metaphor–the angst and sincerity and passion here are very palpable. Good luck! And thanks for participating. k.

  2. I love this in so many ways… for those who died for her, the kind of children she birthes is the fulfillment of their sacrifice. Thought and books bring progress, they move us forward. Why else would people die for their children, so that they may live and grow.

  3. Sometimes, in our efforts to remind others what’s important and how to honor those who came before us (and/or died for us), we forget that they didn’t die so that we can be just like them, but so we could have choices. If they died for what they believed, I doubt they would be too happy to know that others are push to live their lives following the beliefs of others (especially if said beliefs don’t fill the person’s heart).

    I’ve always thought we should write our own epitaphs (before we die, of course). That way, the living won’t use our memories as a weapon to manipulate others (in the name of what’s right, or worse… in the name of love).

    Love the art and your words.

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