Ellis Island: A Poem for Guitar

Ellis Island

I spent an afternoon on Ellis Island a few years ago and was deeply moved by the experience.  Millions of individuals arrived and were processed on the nearly 28 acre island between 1892 and 1954, each with a unique circumstance and history.  Truly astounding when you think about the scope of it.
The Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation has a free searchable online database that you might find interesting and informative.   More remarkable is a visit to the Island.   It certainly changed my perception and attitude about feeling inconvenienced by travel delays.  Chances are, I’m going to arrive at my destination alive (many people died en-route to America) and it isn’t going to take me a month or more to get there.  Think about that the next time you feel yourself getting annoyed because your train is late, or you are stuck in traffic.

An untitled poem that I wrote in 2001 was penned as part of a writing exercise for a dream workshop I had taken at Middlebury College.   Our task was to piece something together from the collective sharing of words and phrases that we derived from the dream recitations of class participants.   I didn’t know what the poem was about or that it had a title until I stepped through the doors of the Great Hall that day in March of 2009.

Ellis Island 

© 2001 Theresa Funk

There were photographs in black and white,
and fingerprints.

Lines infused with a memory,
and I am skating through a strangers dream.

Sixteen lines,
half of them are disconnected.
But a theme was tied by the threads
of celluloid on paper.

I see you standing in a drove of noiseless people.

You are waiting on a line while
on the other side,
my skate-shoes glide.


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