my father was a book
he wrote a great success story
from produce clerk to obstetrician
a gallant D-Day soldier
patching up shattered warriors
in a Paris hospital
a husband, a father, a son, a brother
all things to all who knew him
he died alone in a cold bedroom
his story at an end

my grandfather was a weed
falling from his mother’s womb
as she gasped into eternity
leaving him to grow poorly
in a Dakota sod hut till
his father’s barren failure
forced him to Chicago
where he took root in
the bloody soil of the
South Side stock yards
and sprouted and branched
and fathered seven flowers
planted in the commercial butchery
that watered the garden of his life

my great grandfather was a
German peasant who left home
and sailed across the sea
he dreamed of farming
but watched his wife die
on a parched plot of prairie
where the locusts were
the only creatures
enjoying the harvest
driven by that nightmare
to the city that saved his life
working a flower wagon
with a smile and
a rose on his lapel

I’m a pen writing
the story of their lives
the words scrawled in blood
their triumphs rising like
the waves of the sea
and crashing across
the shores of my children
who wade in warm waters
unaware of the riptides of history
unable to see the past from the
narrow ledge of their own lives

my granddaughters are seeds
biding their time
in ailing prairie grasses
they will sprout and grow
but will they nurture with a hoe
and feast with pride in the family garden
or will they chop with a scythe
clearing the ground of immigrant roots
to stand as dim shadows of the
forefathers who labored so diligently
to create a new world from the promise
of the deep, rich soil beneath their feet