Painting of statue of liberty

Letter to America by Elaine Nussbaum

One Poem in 14 Parts

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Hearsay

With silent lips.“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

– Emma Lazarus, 1903
 

1.

Bald head, full lips quivering, Gordon Sondland lies to Congress, then takes it back. Sondland’s parents escaped Nazi Germany, settled in Seattle. My sister remembers Sondland from B’nai Torah. I don’t remember him at all. No one remembers him from high school, but we hope he does the right thing. The Republicans insist it was the Ukraine. My mother’s grandfather, Joseph Brown, fled the Ukraine in 1883. Sondland declares Quid pro quo. But all this is hearsay.

 

2.

Quid pro quo. But all this is hearsay. They yell Crowd Strike, Black Ledger, Steel Dossier. Minnie Brown was born in El Paso—1900. She and her sister Sarah were sent to an orphanage in Cleveland, told that their mother, Julia had died. Republicans yell, point of order, site Fusion GPS, Lutsenko, Nellie Ohr. The server, Is it in Ukraine? Minnie was reunited with her father when she was sixteen. Brownstein may have been changed to Brown at Ellis Island.

 

3.

Brownstein may have been changed to Brown at Ellis Island. I watch the Watergate hearings in 1973, on a black and white TV, with my uncle Charles and his wife, Gabi. Her father, Alfred Tyrnaurer, a journalist, was targeted by the Nazis who marched into Vienna—March, 1938. Black pant legs, guns, and shiny shoes were all Gabi could discern from where she hid on the Persian rug under the dining table. She was seven when she and Alfred arrived in New York harbor.

 

4.

She was seven when she and Alfred arrived in New York harbor. After the House passed Articles of Impeachment in 1974, Nixon resigned. Sondland paid a million dollars for a ticket to Trump’s inauguration which Trump claims was the biggest ever. The next day millions of women in pink pussy hats, thousands in Portland’s Tom McCall Park, march in the rain. My hands freeze in my sopping wet mittens, as we march past the Heathman Hotel.

 

5.

We march past the Heathman Hotel owned by Gordon Sondland. During the Maidan protests in Kiev’s Independence Square, protestors wore only pots and pans on their heads to protect from iron batons and bullets. Joseph Brownstein left Ukraine in 1883, before the Soviet-Ukrainian War of 1917. In 1900, twelve people, including Julia’s mother, Rosa, resided in El Paso, Texas. Kiev is only 473 kilometers due north of Odessa.

 

6.

Kiev is only 473 kilometers due north of Odessa. Dr. Fiona Hill, former official at the U.S. National Security Council, testifies, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the N.S.C., testifies I was concerned by the call… I became aware of two disruptive actors… Ukraine’s Lutsenko and Giuliani… promoting false information. July 1974—the committee approves three articles of impeachment against Nixon.

 

7.

The committee approves three articles of impeachment against Nixon—abuse of power, obstruction of justice, contempt of Congress. The 1910 U.S. census lists Minnie Brown, age 9, and Sarah Brown, age 13, as inmates at the Jewish Orphan Asylum. Vindman testifies, In Russia… offering public testimony against the President… would surely cost me my life. My great-great grandfather on my father’s side, Philip Nussbaum, left Germany around 1856.

 

8.

Philip Nussbaum left Germany around 1856. April, 2019—Volodymyr Zelensky beats the incumbent, Petro Poroshenko, who is thick as thieves with Dmytro Firtash. Firtash is indicted by a U.S. grand jury for bribery, racketeering, and money laundering. My grandfather on my mother’s side, Minnie’s husband, Felix Stastny, was born in 1895 in Chicago. He recalls a bear sneaking into the kitchen while his mother made bread. This has got to be hearsay.

 

9.

This has got to be hearsay. In 1986, I visit the Jewish Orphan Asylum in Cleveland. Records for Minna Brown, describe a smiling inquisitive student. Minnie suffered from cyclo-thymic bipolar disorder. I watch the impeachment hearings for Nixon with Grandma Minnie, who reclines on the satin-covered sofa barely speaking. Tomorrow, she will be as chatty as a sparrow, and railing against that crook Richard Nixon. Grandfather Felix, stands resolute, in favor of any Republican.

 

10.

Grandfather Felix stands resolute, in favor of any Republican. Joseph Brownstein left Odessa in 1883, married Julia in 1894. My grandmother was born the third of four children. A fifth child was born in 1896. Survived only a year. George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, wears a tan and green bow tie, testifies—united efforts… to support Ukraine in its fight for the cause of freedom… a country free from Russian dominion and the warped legacy of Soviet institutions.

 

11.

Russian dominion and the warped legacy of Soviet institutions. Mr. Kent describes the U.S. plan beginning in 2014—fight corruption in Ukraine, find any looted assetsestablish a better-functioning criminal justice system. Giuliani alleges Biden’s push to oust Shokin was to block scrutiny of Hunter Biden’s actions. Shokin asserts that twice he has been poisoned, and each time died and been brought back to life. I dream, they want to put me in an insane asylum.

 

12.

I dream, they want to put me in an insane asylum. Julia Brown, circa 1900, gazes from a photo wearing a puffy-sleeved, high-collared black dress. Her auburn hair is swept up, revealing heavy eyebrows and dark eyes. On a leafy side street off Independence Square in Kiev, in an office building now abandoned, may be a Black Ledger. Nellie Ohr, a Russia expert working with Fusion GPS, gathers information on Russian oligarchs. What happened to Julia Brown?

 

13.

What happened to Julia Brown between the birth of her fifth child and her death in Manhattan in 1930 at age 55? No records appear for Julia except a certificate of baptism into the LDS church, fifty-eight years after she died. In 1938, the Statue of Liberty welcomes Alfred and Gabi—my uncle’s future wife—on a sunny but brisk morning in New York harbor. The second-grade girls at school taunt her, Gabby rhymes with Blabby, so she changes her name to Alice.

 

14.

Gabby rhymes with Blabby so she changes her name to Alice. The Republicans, not the Democrats, first hired Fusion GPS. They discovered: an echo system of compromisepeople affiliated with the former Soviet Union… Felix Sater… Sater stabs someone in the neck with a margarita glass. My Grandfather Felix never touched a drop of liquor except at Passover. With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

 

 

 

Elaine NussbaumElaine Nussbaum lives in Scappoose, Oregon, surrounded by three and a half acres of second-growth forest. A collection of her poetry, Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest, was published by Finishing Line Press in September 2019, and a chapbook, Blood Moon, is forthcoming from the PoetryBox.

Header image by Oliver Koch, courtesy Pixabay.

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