Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Letter


From a Desperate Realm

(early 20th century)
Oak Park, Illinois:                         There it sits... on my desk next to my bed.  Tante Sara has kindly placed it in my room while I was at work.  She even left writing paper, ink, a pen, a blotter, and an envelope to answer it.  The author is my sister Avigail.  I look at it sitting there.  We never enjoyed each other.  Why is she writing me?  I always felt that she was glad to see me leave her presence forever when I left Minsk behind me. 

Minsk, 1917, To my dearest sister, full of wisdom, overflowing with love and compassion, I write to you with humility in my heart, emptiness in my body, and fear in my soul.  Oh, my beloved Rishkeh, father writes to you that we are hungry because he does not want to scare you.  The truth is more frightening than we could ever have imagined.  We are starving.  The new buds on the evergreen trees are edible and make a sweet/sour broth only if you harvest them before the dried, brown cap falls away.  Then it is pure bitterness.   Why do we know such a fact?  I am begging you to help us.  My heart cries at the memory of every intentional pain I created especially for you.  Why did I receive pleasure from your pain and suffering?  You never did anything to harm me.  When you were old enough and thoughtful enough you simply avoided me... which made my unkind schemes ever more difficult to carry through to completion.  Perhaps our beloved mother mentored you.  Perhaps our housekeeper, Anya.  

My tears of regret fill oceans.  I beg your forgiveness in the same breath that I beg you for food.  We are starving.  ...