Immigrants arriving at Hoffman Island in New York, 1901. Photo: Library of Congress

Poetry

Chain Migration

January 17, 2019

It takes ten men
to make a Minyan,

but only one name
of God for us to share,

so we settled on
America, one by one,

we settled on America,
man and woman.

My grandfather
earned his way over

shoveling coal
in the hold of a boat.

My grandmother sewed
gold into her coat. In secret

they sewed, they sold,
they glowed. I dream of

gold. God’s name
in gold milked

and honeyed
in the dust

beneath our boots—
our dust.

And when they made
a Minyan and didn’t

realize it? And when
they married in

and didn’t realize it?
No matter: they sewed,

they sold, they glowed.
Yes, they sold

their solid gold, sold gold
into gold, sewed gold

together into dust.
When I was born

they gave me
a dead man’s name.

But that’s true
for everyone.

Joshua Gottlieb-Miller lives with his wife and son in Houston, where he is a PhD candidate at the University of Houston and Digital Nonfiction Editor for Gulf Coast.