I am a woman
bequeathed by ghostly ancestors,
amid the 22 million
through the cavernous,
Ellis Island halls
sweating human misery
They willed to me:
no stories, no customs, no heirlooms,
no words from the languages
of their births.
waves of fear fleeing hostility and bigotry
They willed to me
a handful of sepia-faded faces—
by the American dream of oblivion,
they requested their pasts be cremated
And so it was done, in honor of their
rendered in the melting pot—
skin worn to shoe leather.
Probed for labor fitness,
at Ellis Island,
Indentured servants for the fat old English Man that vouchsafed them,
for Northern Factories.
Scurrying to his Summons:
Kykes, Hymies, Shylocks, Krauts, Jerrys….
(At least Not Chinks, banned 1862)
One more group exploited
(And Not Japs, barred 1902)
Tote that barge,and lift that bale.
Bull-penned in Factory towns
Shilled in Factory stores,
before Northern Europeans only quotas 1924,
legislated, legalized more
discrimination, detention and deportation as the norm,
the very sentiments my grandparents
tried to bury before begetting progeny.
They’d all been lured by metaphors
of streets paved with gold,
Only to find beneath their feet
Not even wooden planks,
Just shovels, mud and jumbled stones
To learn that servitude
they be the ones to
I want to dredge up their ashes,
Festively gilding them to tie into my hair.
Ornaments and Amulets,
bearing witness to my origins.
But their inscrutable faces murmur,
Let dead relatives be.
They do not understand my need.
You are the last, they accuse,
as if my only worth lay
in the passing on of genes.
Soon enough, they sigh,
soon enough you will
a handful of dusty ashes
meaningful to no one
will ever know you were.
Buried in the Nothingness
They call America