Two blocks from our house
on Pine Bluff. Found by
dated in the eighteen
hundreds, not overgrown
with weeds, protected
by city law, maintained
like a park as if
to assuage a conscience.
There are no Jews in Paris now.
Surrounded by Stars of David,
I wondered if I’m Jewish enough
to help create a minyan.
We moved to Paris, where Frank James
retired after Jesse was shot—
Melinda’s mother was Lois James—
thinking we had family there,
but found we had only relatives.
In my office in the Victorian house
we rented on Pine Bluff in Paris,
working on a novel, I wondered,
what did happen to his body?—
and I realized that we
know what we would rather
not know: the Romans threw the
bodies down the gulch where
the temple of Moloch had stood.
I sank, down into the pits
of Auschwitz, among the rotting,
stinking corpses of dead
Jews, looked at the desecrated
body of a pious Jew murdered
by fascists, and
despite all my doubts, mylifelong agnosticism, I wept
for him and asked, Lord,
will we ever get any better?
I guess they could not
bear to tell that truth.
Last December Melinda, looking
for her Cherokee Shellnut forebears,
found that Lois James’ mother’s
mother had been named Salmat.
She looked up that name; I heard her
scream, Oh, my God, I’m Jewish!
It’s from the same root as Shalom.
A rabbi who could see her tree
has said there is no doubt
about it. She felt angry
truth was hidden from
her, but a lady in Chabod
said, Do not judge her
harshly. You don’t know
what she faced—but it is
why there are no Jews in Paris.
Her family came from Estonia;
Cousin Volda has invited us
to visit. Four relatives
died in the Holocaust; two
were murdered by Stalin.
Her family were all Southeners.
There are Salmats buried in Georgia,
yet that Jewish graveyard in Paris,
found as if by accident, might
hide some bones of her ancestors.