Coming through Ellis Island with all the rest
you made good across the sea, to the New
World of promise; you, the lanky, blue-eyed
immigrant from Nord Holland with the shock
of Viking hair – my father’s father, like him
a man of few words, there to become part
of the American Dream that was within reach
because of your saleable skills.
That Sunday was quiet with the
heavy, high-pitched whir of locusts
heralding summer in upstate New York – long,
languorous days wasting teenager time
under the apple trees. At first I was sulky
when I showed up for the job. My father
had dressed for the occasion in spotless white
as if he were about to go sailing on his yacht.
Separating us, seven roles of silkscreened ladies
waving Oriental fans. Our tools, your tools, carefully assembled;
a greying stepladder, the razor-sharp knife, a boar-bristled brush.
Solid like the homeland, built to last like your impossible dream.
Unusually impatient, my father barked orders that I
couldn’t fulfil: run, fetch, hold the paper straight.
Could your secrets not be passed on?
My tears spattered in the chlorinated pool.
Years later, when you’d already passed on,
I put myself to the test; a tiny kitchen wall
and a complicated, half-drop vertical match.
I preened long-distance. Dad, dreams come true.