Poem: Twelve Facts About the Immigrants

Twelve Facts About the Immi­grants: A Prose Poem
by Carmine Sar­ra­ci­no, from The Idea of the Ordinary

They were not Ital­iani, but rather Cal­abre­si, Sicil­iani, Napoli­tani, Abruzze­si and would remain so until they died in places like Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island and Her­shey, Pennsylvania.

They thought that “Italia” was the name of the King of Pied­mon­t’s daughter.

They did not believe that they’d find the streets of Amer­i­ca full of mon­ey, but enjoyed say­ing so to those stay­ing behind.

The men knew how to cut stone, how to lay bricks, how to fish, how to coax fruits and veg­eta­bles from rocky soil, how to strike fear into the hearts of oppressors.

The women knew how to cook, how to keep house, how to raise chil­dren, how to coax fruits and veg­eta­bles from rocky soil, how to strike fear into the hearts of husbands.

Their name for Ellis Island was La isla d’lacrime, “The island of tears.”

They began life in the new world shunt­ed through chutes from hold­ing pens to pro­cess­ing sta­tions on the mod­ern mod­el of effi­cient­ly slaugh­ter­ing livestock.

Their coats were pinned with tags, they were giv­en papers, asked for the papers, the papers were stamped, they were asked for the stamped papers, the stamped papers were exchanged for new papers, they were asked for the new papers, the new papers were stamped and the tags on their coats were exchanged for new tags.

Some with bad eye­sight, pink­eye, or glau­co­ma were chalked with an “X” and shunt­ed to a pen to be shipped back.

Oth­ers, baf­fled by the ques­tion “Are you an anar­chist?” went with the more agree­able answer, and then won­dered why they were marked with an “X” and shunt­ed to a pen with the blind.

They believed with all their hearts in the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness, and had pur­sued it all the way to this maze of chutes.

On the boats with ker­chiefs around their faces and caps with the earflaps pulled down wav­ing tiny Amer­i­can flags and smil­ing with slight­ly bewil­dered eyes, they all looked just like children.

Cyn is a proud Mommy & Mémé, professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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