XII: Passage


Poem / Ioanna Warwick
( San Diego, California )

Art / Fariel Shafee
( Princeton, New Jersey )

My Father-in-Law From the Country of the Dead

sends me a gift through a dream,
my inheritance: 
an envelope stuffed with banknotes, 
and a purse burdened with coins.

The banknotes rustle in sepia
scrolled in Cyrillic alphabet. 
Perhaps it's Tzarist roubles,
or money from beyond 
the ghetto of time.

My father-in-law was a simple man,
hard-working and hard-drinking.
See, he gives it back:
his passage to America,
the slaughterhouses of Chicago.

Still the coins should be worth 
the trouble of dying -
even the coppers dropped
into the bottomless 
black pools of beggars' caps -

I weigh the purse in both hands,
afraid to look inside -

Whose face will be
on those coins -

because when I met him,
I wondered in my mind,
"Pa, you old miser, what will you do 
with all that money
in a country with nothing to buy?"

It's obvious whose job he has now.
He offers me a bargain: 
"The best deal in town -
you can have these 
for a song," he says, 

hoarder and herder, 
his voice cracked
with millennia of hardship and drink,
worn out with the passage
from shore to shore.

It doesn't matter 
whose face, he shrugs.

See, he gives it back:
each coin the weight of a life.


I: Every Piece of World / Thomas Wooten - David Niles


Current Issue - Winter 2004