Coming to America

le-havre-e2-jpg

Goodbye Little Sister  (The Long Sad Voyage of 1882)

 

The ships tall masts reaching high to the sky

Awesome for a boy of six // wondering why

His family packed up and left their home

Heading for a new world they travel alone

Brothers left behind grown and married

Younger brothers and sisters stay with the family

Watching the Alps fade as the shadows wane

To the port of Le Havre floating down the Seine

Ready to board this giant bucket of timber

Excitement rising trying to remember

All of his friends left behind in Basel

New adventures unseen in this perilous travel

Noise and activity surrounds them all

White sails slide up and begin to unfurl

Down to steerage on the ships second level

The family of Roths find a place to settle

Into the briny dark seas they sail

To New York Harbor where liberty hails

As the week drags on the voyage is rough

Young Christian and sister find sleeping is tough

The food is bad // unlike cooking back home

The water in barrels kept from the rats’ roam

But somehow this packed and unsanitary condition

Made some folks sick with dysentery emissions

Little sister was one whose resistance was lacking

As the days dragged on her fever not slacking

Worried mother and father prayed for God’s backing

Little sister got worse // there was nothing to do

As her fever raged on everyone knew

Late one night while everyone slept

Little sister passed on our little angel had left

O how we cried  // and mourned this great loss

Little sister had died before we’re across

The captain came by early that dawn

Saying sadly “She’s gone and we must send her on,”

The day was spent in tears and sad wails

As the orange sun was setting we bid our farewells

Wrapped in a blanket lowered into the swell

Into the briny blue she fell

With prayers and weeping // sadness abounds

Young Christian stood watching as folks gathered round

Little sister was gone // for her t’was too late

Wondering if he might be next for this unhappy fate

On reaching New York the emigrants unloaded

Ellis Island was crowded // each family recorded

Christian and family moved on to Ohio

With promise of hope always held high

Words still to come reflect how it should be

Give me your tired // your poor // yearning to be free

Give me your sad // your distraught // still counting the cost

Seeking religious freedom in a land unknown

Where Freedom and Liberty stand alone!

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Le Havre port  –  Bing Photo

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Bjorn at d’Verse asked us to write a poem using a story narrative. I wrote this poem last years about my Grandfather’s experience of coming to America at the age of six. I decided to repost this fictional narrative. The only fact I had was that when they sailed from France to come to America his little sister died on the journey. I had to fill in the details from my imagination. I took all the details I had and wrote a fictional biograpy of my grandfather Christian Roth.

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Most of us who live in America are descendants of immigrants by choice or by force. We have no idea the sacrifices that were made to come and live in freedom. In the year 1882, my Grandfather came as a young boy of six, only to see his sister die on the way across the Atlantic. (In those days when a child died the name was not always recorded in the family tree.  This seems to be the case in this case!) His parents left Switzerland for freedom of religion. Many immigrants have come in the years following for many reasons. It is sad that emigration today has been equated with fear and criminality.

Join us at d’Verse: https://dversepoetry.com

 

30 thoughts on “Coming to America

  1. I know you end this on a positive note, but this is a sad tale of your nearly forgotten relative. Hearts must have been hardened in finding this newfound liberty and I have to ask if it was worth it. I also like this image:
    “Watching the Alps fade as the shadows wane”.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. told beautifully in poetry Dwight, the immigrants plight was such a hard one, leaving familiar shores into the unknown for what they believed and hoped for. I was really sad when I read about how they floated the little girl’s body off to sea, I suppose those days people really gave up more than just home, they had to give away family too, a really lovingly worded poem Dwight.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed your personal historical narrative, Dwight, especially as it is from a child’s viewpoint, an innocent one full of wonder, ‘Watching the Alps fade as the shadows wane’. The rhyme scheme gives the feel of a ballad and the rhythm matches the rise and fall of waves.It must have been so frightening for a young child to see people fall sick on that long voyage and to lose a sister.

    Liked by 2 people

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