I distance myself from your life,
just as you do.
The pieces I hear
are the only ones you know how to say
without feeling a thing.
The heat bomb in your living room
you found after a day of grocery shopping;
summer camp, where you built planes;
a boat across the Atlantic,
your grandmother’s eyes!”
that is the only thing
that bridges the 67 year divide between us - which is to say,
they are polite.
They say nothing
about the bags
If I have inherited your neuroses,
will I also inherit your longevity?
Will I be blessed enough
not to inherit your long memory?
Or perhaps I use your trauma
to justify the pain that I shoulder
Perhaps I just want an explanation
and I can only find one
by examining my DNA.
"I wrote this as a rhetorical letter to my maternal grandmother, who grew up in a port city in Germany during WWII and experienced a number of war traumas that I cannot conceptualize, having grown up fairly wealthy and white in a small town in the US. She is a healthy 92 and has a brilliant memory for details that range from incredibly mundane (the restaurant she got lunch with my mother at over 15 years ago) to profoundly impressive (our family tree and roots throughout Europe, how we dispersed when immigrating to the US). We look very similar and I have recently been able to recognize anxious thought patterns in her that are similar to mine.
I grew up sheltered, in a loving family with financial security, expectations of going to college, and no traumas to speak of, so having severe mental illnesses has been a source of guilt and confusion for me, and I think for a lot of people with similar backgrounds we feel like “if I have all of these privileges, and if my life objectively looks great, why do I feel so awful?” This poem is about that attempt to find a concrete “why” when often there is no clear-cut answer."