What is Mine

Marcel Marceau is mine. And that's not a typo. He is mine because his father, Karl Mangel, was born in a small town in Poland and was a kosher butcher in Strasbourg. I understand kosher butchers. I understand Yiddish-speaking Polish fathers, though mine wasn't either. After his father was arrested, Marcel and his brother worked in the Resistance. Marcel took a new last name from a Victor Hugo poem. He used his artistic skill to forge documents. He led a group of Jewish children, dressed as Boy Scouts, across the Swiss frontier. He took drama lessons in Paris from a school that had been named, before and after the War, for a famous Jewish actress. Sarah Bernhardt. She is mine, too. So is Simone Weil; and Edith Piaf, but only because I saw the Piaf movie. Simone de Beauvoir isn't mine, though I know she had an orgasm for the first time when she had sex with Nelson Algren on the beach in Indiana. He isn't mine, either, though he was Jewish, despite the Scandinavianizing of his name. Or maybe it was in his apartment in Chicago. She wrote him love letters.
Marceau's father was murdered in Auschwitz, and so was Karl's younger brother.
Herschel Grynzspan is mine. Anne Frank is mine, though she's everyone's and they've all trooped through her cramped re-created attic in Amsterdam. Philip Roth is mine, though Cynthia Ozick is not. I.B. Singer is not, Bernard Malamud is not, though he was my teacher's teacher, and my teacher named his son after him. Delmore Schwartz is mine. St. Augustine is mine, for his agony, though I haven't read his diary since freshman year of college. So is Thomas Merton. Both had wild early years. Charlotte Salomon is mine, and Lincoln Park (the neighborhood) is mine. Louis Sullivan is mine--the ornamentation, not the shape of the buildings--and Sacagawea and Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose former summer place I stayed in for a month on a fellowship. Squirrels are mine, and raccoons, and dachshunds and beagles. Cicada skins and doodle bugs and grasshoppers, though they struggle against my closed hand (quick as lightning) and spit tobacco juice on my fingers. Lightning bugs aren't mine. Mark Twain isn't mine though he looks so familiar in his white mustache and suit. Milk chocolate is mine, but only when it's sold in bulk, and covers almonds or malt balls. Milk shakes aren't mine though chocolate chip ice cream is. Tiropita is mine. And kosher gumbo. And espresso. Organic milk is mine, and organic rice milk. Dark wood molding is mine, and green walls against dark wood is mine, and also polished light pine floors. Dark chocolate is never mine. French is mine and Hebrew is mine, and spoken but not written Yiddish. Kafka is mine. The Nora Ephron from the 70s is mine. Mrs. Pigglewiggle is and so is Jeanne-Marie who counts her sheep. Little Brown Bear is mine and Judy Bolton but not Nancy Drew.
Emma Goldman is mine and Eugene Debs and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Frida Kahlo and Walter Benjamin are mine but I have to share them with everybody else. New York isn't mine but Berkeley is. And Venice, though I don't know it well, and twisty little rue Mouffetard, with its little Vietnamese and Moroccan restaurants in the late 1970s, is mine. Adon Olam is mine and Avenu Malkenu. The year 1968 isn't mine, or 1967, but 1945 is and 1976 and 1978. Crosswords aren't mine, nor Scrabble nor Monopoly, but Clue is. Barcelona isn't mine though I walked its streets and into its Art Deco lobbies for almost a week. Harbors aren't mine. Nor boats. Cambridge, Mass., is mine. And Newport, R.I. Lapis lazuli is mine but not jade or silver. Nail polish isn't mine but bow lips are. Silent films aren't mine but Tina Modotti is. Der Blau Engel is mine though I don't understand German. Potato latkes are mine though I don't fry things well. Mary McCarthy is mine. The Bayeux Tapestry is almost mine. Glow worms are almost mine. The main square in Brussels is mine, though I've been there just once. South Street in Philadelphia is mine. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's aren't mine, though I seem to be in one or the other every other day. The sun is not mine but the 2/3s-full moon is. Pansies are, especially dark ones.
Why must I claim so much? Why must I own, even in words?
I saw Marcel Marceau perform, wide-eyed and whitefaced in Chicago. I couldn't see what he was seeing. Maybe, he said to an interviewer, I am silent because of the silence of those who returned from the camps. But this was not his own idea; he was saying Perhaps in answer to the journalist's question.
The amoeba makes itself an arm so it can reach what it wants. The amoeba surrounds the thing and takes it into its one-celled self.
Everything is already named. I have been alive for half a century. I do not know what to do with myself.

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