A world of dreams imploded by age
My mirrored face gazes back at me.
Summers of buttercups would soon be over,
The sweet taste of life, too, would wane.
This is the sum of me, I thought.
This is who I am,
But who am I really?
My name is Miriam.
No one calls me that.
Miriam exists no more,
Her story like so many others
Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers
Their lives in trinkets and candles
and clothes edged in lace,
All that make a house a home
looted and littered with shards of glass,
photos and papers shredded and burned,
nothing left to share
no one left to share it.
Ghosts of children, too.
A one-armed bear matted with drool.
A crinkled Monopoly board, pieces lost.
Stick-figured cats on wrinkled paper.
And Miriam, like so many others,
robbed of strength and spirit,
No way to stand, nowhere to go.
Mired in the mud where life used to be.
Where men toiled
and women cooked
and children giggled
and lovers kissed
and teachers taught
and rabbis chanted
Burning embers are all that remain
where skeletal villages are living graves,
spit on by brown-shirted boys, barely men,
air thick with the stench of the dying, the dead.
A fortunate few able to flee,
Jammed in a barge destined for dreams
Among the chattel, my grandmother,
Her dress so lovingly stitched,
Now stained and grimy,
Sagging on her four-foot frame
So tiny against this monster war
That had choked her childhood,
And in its wake, sweet Miriam.
In this barge prison, my grandmother
masking pain and loss,
Like so many others on the boat that day,
headed in fear for freedom
hanging onto a frayed rope of hope
through fickle waters,
hearts pounding with each ocean wave.
Like others, she cries and no one hears,
Packing her pain what little was left
As she headed for the boat that day
Her small carpet pouch filled
With photos, maybe a coin or two
From her beloved Austria.
Dreams of freedom mixed with fear
No family waiting,
to yell, “Here I am!”
No shoulder to cry on.
No aunt or uncle or friend to say,
“Cry on if you want, cry if you must,”
Her tears invisible. No one must know.
so small and frail at seventeen.
Her high-top shoes,
Scuffed with dirt and wear.
What would her mother say?
Her mother gone. Her father, too.
Nine brothers and sisters left behind.
in distant snaking smoke.
Her sister, her confidante
Her anchor to life itself.
Where was she?
Her dear, sweet Miriam.
Like the rest of them.
Now, generations later,
The smoke long cleared,
I carry her name.
“Miriam.” Hebrew. “Rebellious,”
And yet, how could Miriam rebel?
How would she? How could she?
No voice to scream. No fists to fight.
I am bound to rebel where she could not.
I am bound to remember her,
and all the others who died with her
and all those who would have been born
for generations to follow
if only she had lived.
I am bound to speak for those muted by fear
To show strength for those who cannot.
I am bound to rebel
My name is Miriam.
PHOTOGRAPH: The author’s grandmother Regina (sister of her namesake Great Aunt Miriam Teichman).
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “My Name Is Miriam” is written in honor of my Great Aunt Miriam, my namesake and one of many of my relatives slaughtered in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It is also my way of paying tribute to my grandmother, Regina, who was one of the fortunate few to escape to America and a new life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Hyatt-Blankman, of Columbia, Maryland, is the wife of Jon Blankman, and the proud mom of two sons, Richard, of Brooklyn, New York, and Joshua, of San Antonio, Texas. After receiving her BA in English at Virginia Wesleyan in Norfolk, Virginia, and pursuing a Journalism degree as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Marshall University in Huntington, Virginia, she followed careers in both public relations and book editing. Now, she enjoys time at home with her four cats. Her favorite hobbies are making scrapbooks and cards.
AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: At home with two of my four cats, Gizmo (gray and white) and our newest addition, Sheldon, named after my favorite character in The Big Bang Theory.