The Immigrant Song
by Dimitra Merkouris
(my mother and your mother were washing the clothes)
The girl stands plucking branches in the wide expanse of the olive grove
gazing upwards, she closes her eyes to the heavens
and welcomes the unexpected breeze dancing in her hair
cooling her sweat drenched brow and the nape of her neck.
The girl knows the wind wants to trick her, that it
leaves behind a salty residue no amount of scrubbing can erase, and soon
her once sun-kissed coppery tresses will be gone forever.
The girl knows this and still she welcomes the brief respite from a hellish day.
Now the wind rises, making the ruffles of her newly gifted dress snap westward across her chest like a flag lying at half-mast across her milk heavy bosom,
testing her resolve
playing games that are not meant for the
weak of heart.
Dust swirls at her feet. She’s barefoot.
The girl looks down at the ebony fabric of her
mourning gown and thinks of how it was so
hastily sewn together by the same brown spotted and slightly gnarled fingers
that reached into her very core and pulled into the world
cries of all her hungry children.
She did remember to say thank you.
(my mother gave your mother a punch in the nose)
The girl stands stretching up onto her toes, straightening out the kinks that seem to have taken up permanent residence in her spine.
She does this whilst standing in the cavernous belly of a stainless-steel beast
the whir of clicking needles;
A perfectly synchronized song of a thousand nightingales masking the creaking of
aching and porous bones
and the back and forth roll of a rocking chair that’s been purposefully nailed to the floor.
The girl thinks how nice it would have been if their porthole had been left slightly ajar.
Squinting up at the harsh fluorescent lights, the girl
turns racoon eyes back to plucking
errant threads off cashmere sweaters and musing
over the sound of stamps on passports and
the punch of
bearing the ink-smudged letters of her name.
(what color was the blood?)
The girl sits hunched over her needlepoint.
With every surface of the two-bedroom apartment properly encapsulated by intricately woven doilies in every shade of cream known to man, the girl can now turn her hands to
knitting capes for her many granddaughters
to wear over red ruffled dresses and white knee-high socks
Black Mary Janes polished to a high gloss.
The girl hopes that one day, when her granddaughters look down
queued up near the nave of the church,
mouths slightly agape and
restless in their readiness to receive holy communion,
they might see reflections of the girl
as she once was.
Standing in the shadow of a giant fleur-de-lis
clutching a maple leaf to her heart and
singing a litany of what it means
to run headlong into
the winds of change.
* * * * *
Dimitra Merkouris lives on the best street, in the best city, in the best country in the world. She is the author of Darla Dilly, Don't Be Silly as well as working as an anesthesia technician. She is proud of her partnership with the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation which sees 50 percent of her author royalties. Dimitra loves words and poetry and especially love poetry although at the moment she's really into flannel board storytelling. She loves visiting schools and inspiring young readers in kindergarten and grade1.