How grandmother paid her passage to New York

One by one her mother sold her silver spoons
and heirloom bracelets, goodbye porcelain bear,
silk blouses, patent-leather Mary Janes, the scarves
and stud earrings for newly pierced ears, the red wool coat
spotted walking on another tiny body’s shoulders
down Wittenbergplatz. Goodbye books bound
in leather, bone china, even the hangers, the goblets
and cabinets, goodbye to the Torah buried in the backyard,
the neighbors, the schoolmates, the mothers dressed so well
at services, the men with businesses who stayed behind
one week, two weeks more. What stylish
objects they became: the coins from fillings
and wedding rings, the soap, the wigs, lamp
after lamp to light a thousand decorated homes.

Rachel Mennies is the author of “The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards,” Texas Tech University Press (2014), winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize in Poetry. She teaches at Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of AGNI’s editorial staff.