Friday, December 17, 2010

Ellis Island

From Italy they came,
all their possessions in cloth bags
and battered trunks,
their family, their village, their culture
even their language discarded.

My grandparents held those
destined to be my parents in their
 comforting embrace,
piled into steerage like
mindless chattel,
holding on desperately to
everything of meaning,
bound for America.
Weeks of travel over horrific seas
exposed to all manner of human ills,
body against body
with no room to move freely,
filled with fright,
propelled by longing,
driven by desperation
longing for a better life
in the land of dreams.

Those with enough metal to
survive the transit,
spied the haunting image of the
great lady of the harbor,
they wept,
they cheered,
they applauded,
they embraced.

There to disembark on Ellis Island,
a mammoth of a building
that swallowed them into a great hall
where they were processed,
registered, stamped and examined
for the signs of disease,
for evidence of mental instability,
for anything that could delay their
entrance to America

Hungry for labor to
propel the great  and insatiable
dynamo of progress.

I am a child
of these new-world adventurers,
one hundred million Americans were
launched from the seeds and eggs of
those who made that singular journey
into an untried and wholly unknown future. 

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