Friday Poem: At a Party On Ellis Island Watching Fireworks

The man next to me sings God Bless America even though
he knows the Statue of Liberty is unsafe to enter. He sings

my home, sweet home, and I bless fireworks breaking
over our heads. Bless three islands held apart

by tunneled water. Bless bridges, lights hooking shore to shore.
Bless the ocean that drowns its dreamers. Immigrants

who dreamed of cupboards, with shelves, with jars full
of raspberries. Who dreamed of unhaunted rooms. Who dreamed

their daughters tall and strong. Bless doctors who put
stethoscopes to tired Atlantic hearts. Forgive their initials

of defects: Pg, Pregnancy; S, Senility. Bless those who waited,
who sang to their dozing children in a dozen languages.

Bless satchels filled with photographs and christening gowns.
Bless their minds heavy with hymns, with recipes

for borscht. Forgive Italians detained, Japanese interred,
German-Americans accused of Nazi sympathies, and bless

the language of explosion. Bless sparks that die in the river.
Bless stars that fall like hailstones on the spangled city. Bless

the sun-washed Mother of Exiles who welcomed salt-stung masses.
Forgive us for not restoring Liberty. Forgive us for ornaments

in the gift shop. Forgive us this music. Forgive us our dancing.
Forgive us for reading names of the dead, and for forgetting them.

–by Traci Brimhall
from Rattle #30, Winter 2008

Traci Brimhall: “I was born in Little Falls, New Mexico, although all I remember is the library, playground and Dairy Queen. Now I live in New York City where there are still plenty of books, parks and ice cream. As a child, my grandmother recited Edward Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ every time I stayed with her. I don’t know if I knew I wanted to write poetry then, but I did learn that marriage is an arduous journey filled with talking animals.”

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