Holding Doors Open

Monday, January 15, 2024

In early spring, 1908, Ellis Island was so congested with ships from Europe & Asia,
The steamer transporting my grandfather, alone & only fourteen, was diverted, rerouted

To a port in Galveston. A fairly common practice, born like most things out of laziness,
Robotic immigration agents changed, for pronunciation ease, his name—from Komar

To Cohen. If his portrait existed, it’d only appear in sepia. Color did not exist. I told
My son this snippet of our history, along with the fact that his great-grandfather, Nathan,

Somehow found his way to Mississippi where he became an apprentice tailor, taken in
By a childless couple from his Russian village. And so, my boy looked up the translation

Of Komar, discovered that we are the Miskito people, children of gnats. And so, like most,
We’re not really who we say we are, believe we were, insignificant & transitory as insects.

Based upon my own research, the Moskito tribe is actually a native people
From Central America & mosquitos are literally the deadliest animals on this planet.

And so, Nathan heard there were people like himself in Harlem & made his way where
He met & fell in love with Tessie & our family took root. And so, we put our heads down,

Crammed six people into one bedroom, shared pillows & dreams, expanded becoming
Mesmerized by flapping colorful laundry on clotheslines, scraping off yellowing wallpaper

& giving the walls a fresh coat. We were horrified by used hypodermic needles unburied
In playground sandboxes because it was always about the children. But there were evenings

We were so depleted we swigged sour milk straight from the container & hastily chewed
The moldy bread, always leaving a smidgen, even if it were less than a swallow. And so,

We became real Americans & discovered everything we’d ever want to know can be found
On the phone, that we could abandon God with no repercussions & fill our Walmart carts

With returnable items. And so, I keep my wallet fat with currency & proper identification
So I would not shrink back into my own pockets. Only yesterday, shopping for nothing

With my son, he chivalrously held open the mall entrance door for a woman walking
Her pets, which I assume were rescued, ratty mongrels, one hobbling on three legs,

The other, a blind pug. The woman, too, was missing a limb. I asked the dogs’ names
As I reached to pet them & she barked back: their original names or what I call them?

Monday, January 15, 2024