With the death of the Venezuelan president, I got to thinking about my ancestors…  (You’ll have to stay tuned for a later post to find out why!)  First, here’s a poem (very rough! work in progress!  suggestions welcomed!) for the oldest traced ancestor on my mother’s side:

Dear Mr. Otto,
I know that you came over
from Bavaria.
It sounds romantic.
Lush and rolling.
A cow grazing
with a tinkling bell
fast around its neck.

The Atlantic ocean
must have been
quite a surprise.
And tedious.
I know that a trip
could mean three months (or more)
of relentless and treacherous

I know you landed somewhere
on the Eastern seaboard,
(Philadelphia? New York?)
Then I presume you did
what most people do:
Got down
to the hard business
of living.

I know that you eventually had several children,
And that at least one
of those children’s children
found a way to Kansas
(of all places)
and became the parent
of my Grandpa Berry.

But what I wish I could ask is:

How did the air smell
on the day you left home forever?

What shapes and shadows lit up your dreams
as your ship
pitched and tumbled in the sea?

 Whose name was on your lips
At the hour of your death?

What made you most glad?
most sad?
most mad?

Because the things that made you
made me.