After death, like Houdini,

you disappeared,

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

of penmanship,

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

into influenza,

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