No Wall, Not This Time

We did not climb over a Wall,
not this time.
Mama had left her Warsaw Ghetto Wall,
buried deeply in the scars of her survivor’s guilt.
Papa had exiled Stalin’s Siberian Trenches,
drowned frozen in a distant subconscious.

Not this time, not in 1961,
this time, in 1961, papa, mama, and me,
we crossed an ocean.

Statue of Liberty greeted us with poetry.
Poetry, language we did not understand,
Mama, papa, and me.
Waves rocking our freighter ship deck whispered;
Mother of Exiles, New Colossus, says something about
“breathing free.”

Displaced Person, DP, Green Card, Greenhorn,
In fifth grade, I sang pho net i cal ly, to fit in, fit in.
E ven tu al ly, syllables arranged themselves into words.
Words into sentences, and understanding into
Spelling bees…
Eventually, this language no longer eluded me,
not, totally. And,

I sang,
“The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
At school, at home.
Our attic apartment resonated with the land of the free,
the home of the brave.

Sang to my brave mama, my brave papa.
Sang from deep in my heart.

Papa and mama nodded their heads, hummed along.
Hands on their hearts, hummed to a flag of yet another land,
this land, this final land,
free, brave.

Papa’s gravedigger’s hands, fingernails witness to cemetery soils,
right hand on his heart.
Mama’s cleaning woman’s aching back momentarily straightened,
right hand on her heart.

Tired, poor, huddled masses, breathing free.

Emma Alexandra