The Massacre of October 27, 2018

*This is a piece of an ongoing series of poetry by Cecilia Ruvinsky*

His name is Robert Bowers,

Saxon and red-white-and-blue,

while mine is Michaela Ruvinsky,

beautifully harsh

and beautifully Sephardic.

 

He was born into blue eyes

and ancestral roots

that were never poisoned

by hydrogen cyanide

or swastikas on fire,

while my grandpa,

a man who died alone in Tallahassee,

refused to tell my father

what it was like

to encounter a goy

and whisper anxious prayers in his mind

that if said out loud

would surely guarantee

the loss of his life

and the loss of his gold fillings.

 

He called Jews the enemies of white people,

and he said that we slaughter his kind.

He snarled that we are the children of Satan,

and he smoked cigarettes

outside his apartment complex,

branding us filthy and evil,

while I remember the Holocaust Museum in Israel,

the way the children in the pictures

stared back at me with generations of sorrow,

and how I couldn’t even cry for them

and their unmarked pinstriped graves

because crying would make the hatred real,

and if the hatred is real,

then I would have to live in a world

full of people hidden in corners

who want to slaughter me and my people,

the way Robert Bowers thinks we want to slaughter his.

 

He read and reposted anti-Semitic manifestos,

he called us slurs with a tongue dipped in privilege,

and he wrote that we are an infestation in the world,

while I read Night, Schindler’s List, and The Book Thief,

while I wrote my bat mitzvah speech

and perfected my Hebrew characters,

and now I read the news articles that call him a suspect,

and I can only think that that is too delicate a word,

too undetermined,

because in my mind

he is not a suspect -

he is the coal black snowstorm

that rips through the pages of those books

and makes my community

falter in their ancient, land-of milk-and-honey beliefs.

 

He held a gun in a synagogue in Pittsburgh,

and his finger pulled the trigger that murdered

eleven of my people, injured six others,

and instilled a fear that tastes

like a secret our grandparents had to keep,

while I prepared the seder plate during Pesach

and dipped my finger in wine ten times

for each of the plagues,

while I bowed my head over the Shabbat candle

and recited the blessing with my sister

that felt like magic dancing in my throat,

and then held my fingernails to the flame

and prayed to my God for my sister to be healed.

 

He held that gun and he murdered eleven,

and with the loss of their lives,

those lives that were never meant to be cut so short

by a coal black snow storm

who perverted himself into a hideous, white supremacist god,

he killed something in the rest of us,

broke us into pieces of matzo and innocence,

and while he awaits his fate,

perhaps a lifetime in prison,

perhaps death row so he can know

what it is to have someone own your death like a prize,

I write this in public and try not to cry,

because how do I explain

to the people around me

that I’m afraid I’ll never finally get to stop being afraid.