The Arty Semite

POEM: 'September 1, 1946'

By Erika Dreifus

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Seven years after Auden sat
uncertain and afraid
in one of the dives on 52nd Street,
my great-grandmother arrives, finally, in New York.
She was lucky, everyone will say,
to have left Germany in time,
and to have waited out the war
with her husband in Brazil.

But on September 1, 1946,
she does not feel so lucky.
The endless voyage over, yes,
but she is detained on Ellis Island
while her husband, too weak, too tired,
breathes his difficult last in the Marine Hospital.
Yet again the unmentionable odor of death
offends the September night.

On what would have been their fortieth anniversary
She is admitted, alone, to the United States.
For the first time since 1938
she can see and hear and touch her daughter.
They depart South Ferry and make their way
to West 139th Street, where wait
the son-in-law the woman has yet to meet
and the baby grandson.


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