Os Imigrantes (The Immigrants)
After the painting “Os Imigrantes,” by Domingos Rebelo
A small woman sits on the edge of her trunk,
wrapped in island cloth, an attempt
to hold herself together.
At her feet, a shadowbox of fish scales
arranged around the face of Santo Cristo,
“Saint Christ of Miracles” is her most prized possession.
It must make the journey with her,
a reminder of the island and Azorean devotion.
The pier is full of leaving;
you can smell it on the sea breeze.
You can see it in every shell
broken on the rocks by gulls hungry
for soft flesh.
This painting is a one-way mirror.
I want to do more than look in.
I want to peel back the layers of paint,
tell her “we turned out of okay, avó,
we have come back for you,”
frozen in the moment of departure.
“Look at our arrival.
Look at what has happened in
the four generations our family
has made on American soil.
It didn’t always hurt this much.
It wasn’t always goodbye.”
She can never know this
no matter how I whisper
to an old piece of art.
Fado music plays on repeat,
the notes all saudade, profound longing
magnified by the fact
there is no English translation for this.
There is no English translation