Cindy Hunter Morgan
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In August, they left Buffalo
on a steamboat full of immigrants.
Homeless and groundless,
passengers floated in beds
or hovered over game tables
or gripped deck railings,
Everyone wobbled, queasy and uncertain.
On the deck, two demijohns of turpentine
pitched and rolled like dice.
When the boilers exploded,
some passengers burned in their bunks
while others threw luggage in the water
and jumped in after it, hoping
their cracked satchels full of family pictures
would float them.
They clung to sepia faces
of mothers and grandmothers,
which stared, unblinking, into disaster.
One man, twenty, climbed
off the deck onto a sidewheel.
He sat on a spoke,
his hair freshly cut by the ship barber,
a picture of his girl in his vest pocket,
her head bobbing gently
as the ship rose and fell
as though she was nestled beside him
high on a ferris wheel,
rocking above a new country.