Kinship By Margarita Engle

Two sets
of family stories,
one long and detailed,
about many centuries
of island ancestors, all living
on the same tropical farm…

The other side of the family tells stories
that are brief and vague, about violence
in the Ukraine, which Dad’s parents
had to flee forever, leaving all their
loved ones
behind.

They don’t even know if anyone
survived.

When Mami tells her flowery tales of Cuba,
she fills the twining words with relatives.
But when I ask my
Ukrainian-Jewish-American grandma
about her childhood in a village
near snowy Kiev,
all she reveals is a single
memory
of ice-skating
on a frozen pond.

Apparently, the length
of a grown-up’s
growing-up story
is determined
by the difference
between immigration
and escape.

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