Sardines

April 3, 2011
By IzyDizzy BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
IzyDizzy BRONZE, Chicago, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Caught in a web of hatred
And marinated in shame
Packed and packaged into tight containers

Lucky to be shipped away
From sunny Porto
To the safety of Ellis Island

Still uneasy, though,
They’ll change their last name
Forget old customs and learn new ways

The topic will be eaten
Forced down – not fully digested
Shoved away, until their grandchildren ask.

Will they regurgitate?

The author's comments:
This poem is inspired from a photograph of jewish immigrants, taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson. I saw the photograph at his exhibit at the Art Institute, so I decided to write a poem about it. My grandfather was jewish (our family had a family-run antique store in France), and living in France during WWII. When he was thirteen, he and his sister and his mother and father fled France by getting false papers in Spain, and fleeing on a Sardine Boat from Porto, Portugal to New York. My grandfather changed his last name from Hamburger (a very jewish name) to Harcourt (not jewish-sounding) and went to University of Chicago. I don't think that he was necessarily ashamed of his jewish heritage, but my father thinks that he did not really want to associate with it (it was only a burden to him), and he did not raise my father in the Jewish ways (though he did raise him French). Though I was not fortunate enough to meet him (he died of a heart attack before I was born), our family story and heritage is very important to me and my family.
Here is a link to the photograph:
http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Cartier-Bresson/artwork/204704

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