An eighteen-year-old immigrant reaches the Port of New York in 1910

S.S. Themmistocles Photo in public domain

The first crossing

over the choppy gray Atlantic

was with his father

to work.

The second crossing,

they took their American money

home.

The third crossing,

the last time,

the final journey,

he sailed alone,

abandoning Greece for America’s glitter,

enchanted and

lured by sirens his father ignored.

He gambled aboard the ship

and docked without a drachma

or a penny

or the required twenty dollars.

He was officially a pauper

facing deportation.

His dream beckoned at the end of the gangplank,

drawing him off the ship.

He grabbed his opportunity,

buoyed by hope alone

and met the Greek

who’d come to America before him,

who loaned the poor

money

at a certain percentage,

the Greek who jammed his foot in the door

and propped open the gateway

to the immigrant’s new life.

In the dingy Manhattan hotel room

with other Greeks,

the immigrant thirsted to speak English

and for a cup of coffee.

“Teach me.”

And they did.

He practiced the words,

to plant them in his mind,

all the way

down the stairs

to the restaurant

on the first floor.

The girl looked up.

“Yeah, what would you like?”

“A kiss, please.”

This poem is from my poetry chapbook Diaspora.

Virginia writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of Diaspora, a poetry chapbook. www.DianeHelentjaris.com

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