What was the name of the ship my grandmother
grew up on, making her way to New York? Much later
and elsewhere California beckoned
to a friend of mine. She sat on the plane and watched
as the stuff of her life flashed briefly in the sun before
being tossed into the cargo like so many memories.
By then my grandmother was refusing to fly, and I
took off for the other coast where I could feel
as small as sand.
The lady has old, cloudy eyes. The girl slips in
her sky blue lenses. I see that time is a world traveler.
We have spread ourselves out over this spherical surface,
snapping into place like raindrops
on the skin of the ocean. Shifting and shimmering
is our great fugue—my Atlantic repeating itself, a friend’s
wheels lifting off under wing, a grandmother’s bow
tying into port.
Two by two the animals got on board. One by one
we lie down in the ground. Whose migration
counted most? An old lady was once a girl on a ship
being tossed to a dog of a country—America grabs her
in teeth, shakes her and carries her home. I sleep face down
in a city on the beach. And my friend’s displacements come
relentlessly one at a time.
There was a time when the three of us stood together,
floating in generations, many moments
without motion. The restlessness of a long life bordered
a buckling down into newer seats of passage. A bird
flapped its strong wings within each of us. It promised
freedom and flight, news of land in sight. It flew in a great
arc, an honor guard. So we stood, we modern Noahs,
waiting, holding out arms.