Prompt Images

There is photograph of me as a child,

a moment caught on film

standing in the grass in front of my house.

I am five

wearing a stiff dress with crinoline

shiny new black patent leather Mary Jane’s

and a straw hat

tied under my chin.

It is Easter.

I am Jewish.


My mother worried

I would feel left out of the holiday celebrations

in our small New England town

and did it her way.

Gifts at Christmas, but no tree or tinsel.

Easter baskets, but no resurrection of Christ.

Fish on Friday, because it was on sale.

Nothing of our own traditions,

the ones passed down from slaves in Egypt,

through the Maccabees,

the burning of Temples,

the deaths of the Holocaust,

and perpetual diaspora.


There is a photograph of me with Santa Claus.

I am wearing a black velvet dress with a white bow,

an oversized ribbon in my hair.

My front teeth had grown in

too large for my mouth.

My smile, embarrassed.

Mother tucked a wallet sized

into each Christmas card she sent,

proudly announcing,

we’re not Jews.


And while we were playing on the playground,

my third grade classmate

told me the Jews killed Jesus,

I wondered why he was blaming me.


My mind was a jumble

of what I knew

and didn’t know,

and what was faith

and what wasn’t,

and what

was simply my mother’s wish

that we would belong.

I didn’t.

But somewhere along the way,

I knew that the collective consciousness

of being a Jew

was stronger

than my mother’s confusion.


There is a photograph of me

under the chuppah,

a veiled bride in white.

When I look at it

I remember the seven blessings,

Sheva Brachot,

blessing us for a life together.

I circled my groom, seven times,

the formation of a new family circle.

When I look at this photograph,

I finally know who I am.

Melanie Civin Kenion

Melanie Civin Kenion is spending her retirement writing poetry, traveling as much as possible, and playing Rummikub with her grandson.

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