After death, like Houdini,
leaving the steamer trunk bare.
So many times you’d escaped:
born after the cholera of 1873
in a Polish village named for fire,
eluding famine on the S.S. Breslau,
which delivered you to New York
with pink eye and ten bucks,
surviving even the inferno
of the steel mill,
the shrieks of its sulfurous air.
Now I track you through digital loops
untangling versions of your name:
misspelled by the purser on the Breslau,
Anglicized by a census taker
who got everything wrong but your address.
How completely you vanished
even your gravestone gone.
I touch this screen as if virtual ink
could bring back your fingerprints,
your heavy, grease-smudged hands.
Photo By: Snapshots of the Past