Reluctant Immigrant

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus

Plaintive song sung in childhood, beloved melody that touched my heart,
Often tired, sometimes wretched, always poor, though not homeless

Before I understood the words, I knew the yearning
to belong, to fit in, to be accepted—we were outsiders

Immigrated to the west, escaped, searching for a better life
I left family behind, severed ties for years, survived

He was forced to flee the genocide, board the boat,
Fighting his friends to go to his wife and child, already dead, they said

Landed in New York, no English, cooked for men like him in the hostel
Once a proud Armenian, now a conquered, bereft, shamed man

Reluctant immigrant to a strange land, mourning his home, far away
Arranged second marriage, nine children born on a farm, a life lived, survived

Trauma lived and re-lived, DNA passed down the generations, his story lost
No golden doors for him, just a desire to blend in…and forget

Grandfather to father, father to daughter, I stop the cycle of abuse
Exiles that no God, no Lady Liberty could return home, sheltered here

Safe now, loved, loving others, a good life carved out of pain and shame
He survived that 1915 holocaust, I am, we are, his legacy, immigrants yet.

© 2018, Lisa Ashley

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