‘Blood Libel’, a poem by Tracey S. Rosenber

Blood Libel by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Published in The Lumen, Issue 1, 2014.

You loved my body
all the lecks and nicks and scabs of me,
the lumps you brushed with your stubby ingers
as you argued away possible malignancies.
You shrugged when I explained
the disorders of my great-great-grandmother,
dirty inbred cells churning through the shtetl
and riding her bloodstream till they latched
so deeply in her uterus she couldn’t give life
without passing them on.

It’s a mystery.
It’s a long, long story.

Of course, I in my own personal diaspora
never opened my suburban front door to ind
a baby’s drained corpse speared to the welcome mat.
I would never call myself a martyr to religion.

You, on the other hand, would have been smarter
to learn from history. Remember the ones who couldn’t
get the hell out of Europe? Who didn’t know
what was coming,
or assumed such things don’t happen nowadays,
not when we’re so modern,
not so Jewish anymore?

I’m sorry, love, to have kept from you
how many ways you’d be burdened
not simply with me
vomiting in the car, handles in the shower –
but generations of my cancer-riddled family.
I thought I’d assimilated enough.


Tracey S. Rosenberg is the author of the historical novel The Girl in the Bunker (2011) and a poetry pamphlet, Lipstick is Always a Plus (2012). Her poems have been published in a variety of journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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