Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Slaying Heritage


I am a woman

of

No history,

bequeathed by ghostly ancestors,

Abandoning origins,

lost

amid the 22 million

—broken

shamed,

cattle-prodded

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.

Just—

Whispers

streaming,

waves of fear fleeing hostility and bigotry

—pogroms—

sweaping Europe

executing

Jews.


They willed to me

only

a handful of sepia-faded faces—

with

no

places,

no

dates,

and

no

names.


Dirty Immigrants.

Victims.

Beguiled

by the American dream of oblivion,

they requested their pasts be cremated

along-side them.

And so it was done, in honor of their

broken backs

rendered in the melting pot—

skin worn to shoe leather.


Probed for labor fitness,

Stripped

Searched,

Inspected,

Renamed,

Mandated

Labeled

Tagged

Mass processed.


Branded

at Ellis Island,

(aliens) (untrustworthy)

Indentured servants for the fat old English Man that vouchsafed them,

(Eastern European—different)

Slaves

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)

to


Tote that barge,and lift that bale.


Fettered.

Bull-penned in Factory towns

Shilled in Factory stores,

—Trapped—

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

required

they be the ones to

Pave them.


I want to dredge up their ashes,

And minuscule,

fragmented bones,

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

also be

a handful of dusty ashes

meaningful to no one

and nobody

will ever know you were.

Buried in the Nothingness

Of the

Chimera

They call America

3 comments:

timethief said...

You are an amazingly talented writer. The imagery contained here will keep me pondering for days. May you Solstice be merry and bright.

Sharath said...

"They’d all been lured by metaphors

of streets paved with gold."

Ironically when anyone asks my father why he came to here, his reply is always "to make more money."

And many are shocked when he says he didn't come here for "freedom."

Gabriel - Gadfly Revolution said...

This is really powerful. Really beautiful.