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Fourteen Days

Fourteen Days

Fourteen Days

fourteen days on a boat with strangers
while sleeping in steerage –
drunks tossed overboard –
vomit falling from the
upper bunk.

Grandmother traveled
fourteen days, to see
a woman holding a
torch and taste freedom.
She traveled alone.

“Train number ten,”
she told me, as she
pulled stripped cookies
from the cookie jar. . .
Her arm’s crossed, and
the elbows of her red
sweater worn.

A sudden sweep of
air entered the kitchen
wind, moved her
calendar, swinging
it back and forth – it
hung from a nail on
her pantry door.

Her homemade
curtains blew – and
soon when fall arrived
I’d be sitting further
from the window,
away from the radiator –
heat – burned your
hand – surprised those
curtains survived. . .

Sitting at grandmother’s
side – I listened as I
pulled from her cookie
jar – strawberry, chocolate,
and vanilla cookies…

“Train number ten,” she
repeated, “People
were sent back, on another
boat.” Her hand’s picked
at her sweater as if it were
coated with bugs.

“Bugs, if they found
them on you, or in your
hair – they shipped you
back.” Her head moved
as if to confirm her words –
as if to say yes. ..

She told me her Mama
cried, and her sister
wouldn’t leave the mountains
of Sicily, wheat fields,
geraniums, olive trees –
they didn’t care if either
dragged her clothes
to wash them in the
Square. . .

I’ve watched grandmother
wash clothes, cross-legged
on her linoleum floor –
her body bent, her arm’s
scrubbed – over and over –
then – squeezed each one
until all the water –
dripped no more. . .

Train number ten was
all she knew – carrying a
slip of paper, a white
satchel with personal
things – a picture of
her Mama – white under
things, and a cotton

She was meeting her
Papa, he set life up
for her brothers in
America, and she too
wanted a taste of
freedom. . .
Grandmother smiled,
pinched my cheek. And,
I smiled back – and
remembered her gold
tooth – shined in the
sunlight filtering through
curtains in her kitchen.

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