Poems about America

The Passage - Journey to America


No one will ever know, nor can it be spoken of lightly,
    what it was like to cross those stormy seas
    to arrive at the new land.
How many friends I saw perish through no fault of their own,
    but only that they could not sustain themselves
    through the difficult passage of that time.
No food, little sleep, the tempest of the wind
    lashing the ship from day to day and night to night.
The unholy smells that came from unclean food
    and unclean quarters, that were not fit even for animals,
    no less than for human beings.
If it were not for the dream that held us fast,
    none of us would have managed.
We would have all perished from lack of hope
    as well as from lack of food.

But the dream did not let go of us.
It insisted that we find the means to a new way of life -
    the pathway to a more peaceful and free existence
    than had been possible before.
Who can say where our home was
    during those months upon the sea?
Who can know what travail beset the souls
    of those who wished they had never come,
    but found themselves, in any case, stuck with a decision
    that had perhaps been made in duress, or intoxication,
    or perhaps through some wisdom
    which did not seem entirely real as the winds
    whipped and tossed the ship about
    like a piece of flotsam on the tide.

The women were not strong enough in many cases to survive,
    and yet many did survive, sometimes outlasting even the men
    in their ability to remain hopeful,
    in their ability to turn to God
    for help in the midst of the death that surrounded us
    and the absence of any vision of landfall.
Then, finally, after months of waiting, a piece of land
    could be seen in the distance, the spark of hope
    that once again ignited the heart that had given up.

Who can say how many did not die that day or night
    because they had seen that small promontory of land
    jutting out toward us as if to say "do not give up,
    it is only a small distance yet to go."
Only God almighty can know for sure what mighty flame
    beat within the human breast
    that allowed each one to complete the passage to the new land,
For it was beyond hope and beyond imagining
    that those who remained would actually walk uprightly
    on green earth and on soil that did not smell of salt,
    and brine, and fish, and human waste.

It was beyond hope and beyond imagining that these feet
    which have trod the soil of many lands,
    but not freely, only in service to others,
    would one day walk as a free man upon a piece of land
    he would call his own, and find the victory of heart
    that comes from a journey through great hardship
    that finally reaches its goal.