The immigrant remembers his father

Dear father, here I am now in the belly
of the beast you dreamed of so much
when I was young, though differently—
You used to tell of the stark white
beauty of trees in Michigan, the bounty
of apples that burdened orchards
in the gold-tipped months before—
so much fallen on the grass they felt
a luxury to trample, and therefore wrong.
Here, you said, everyone has a chance
to hammer out the measure of a dream.
Here, you said, everyone could grow wealth
from mere foam. But you were a traveler
passing through; and did not live long enough
to see how those like us might have bread
and rations of cheese handed out in welfare
lines; coupons for cuts of meat no one else
but our kind would dare to eat— neck bones,
tail bones for broth, ends we cunningly fashion
into sustenance. Our industry is legendary,
father. They give us one mop, one pail, one
building to strip of grime in the wormwood
hours of neither night or day. We are ghost
hands that bring the hot food on a tray
and clean the diner tables after everyone
else has gone away. At dawn we snap on
safety belts and climb the scaffold
to gird beams of steel that otherwise
might buckle in the wind. They don’t
really speak to us, father; or care
for our tongue. Our same silences call
to others of our kind. Here I married,
and watched child after child come to us
like a tumult of water in our cupped,
cracked hands, as silken flowers or doves
might begin— in a ripple of mauve
and an incandescent longing, the kind
with which we fill whole wardrobes.
The kind I might have first felt long ago,
herding goats; braced against the wind,
tracking a hairline path through the hills.

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