Dressing for Dinner

German Emigrants

German Emigrants

In steerage you don’t dress
for dinner, your baggage meager
as your probable prospects
when you reach that western shore.
You’ve worn this same old jacket
for two weeks and now, as you press
against the starboard prow,
even the swells in their fancy
Hamburg suits feel the engines slow
and their hearts gallop just like
yours at the sight of the shining city
on the horizon.

And on the docks, men wait
to offload the belongings
and those to whom they belong,
maybe to dip into one of the
leather cases that roll off
the Electric or the Adele.
There’s always a chance they
might nick a new jacket replacing
the same one they wore when they
hit this blessed shore. Here,
where the streets look much like
those in Le Havre, Antwerp, Liverpool,
not paved with gold, but possibly
with a puncher’s chance.

Maybe even a chance to one day
dress for dinner.

I’ve been working on my vast family’s genealogy these past few weeks and I wondered what brought them here to this country and what life was like when they got here. It must have been exciting, frightening and took incredible guts. The research is partly for the (whispered) novel I’ve danced around for two years. Anyway, that’s the inspiration for Poem #24 of Poem-A-Day April 2016.

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