by Maury Gruszko
Having been puking off the wrong side of the ship to see her in the mist in the distance of the harbor, Gershon’s awareness of the approach came not from shouts and cheers but a swift diminishment of sound, a whole stretch of silence for the first time since they were herded aboard and down into steerage. Nights had been sleepless for so many, he knew, because it was they who’d kept him awake, retching, moaning, making pleasure for themselves in the misery and stench. The stench he could conjure in his memory anytime after, always without trying and never from desire. No one at home could have warned him about steerage, no one had ever come back from
אַמעריקע Amerike America, not to Łapy, which had been all he’d ever known. Had they, it wouldn’t have mattered, “choice” having not ever been much more than a word, an idea, and only rarely an option. And then, swiftly swelling like the rising roar of a deluge, the cheering began. From over one of the ship’s funnels he saw a massive, greenish torch, and then there she was. The colossal embodiment of promise.