The first pounding rumble of thunder
announces the beginning of spring today––
April 4, the 130th birthday of my grandmother
Hannah Maki. Wherever her sauna is now
may she know her life celebrated, who in 1908
braved the cold swells of the North Atlantic
to reach America through the seaport of Quincy,
Mass., where Finnish laborers worked the quarries;
where Finnish girls and Finnish women, known
for their strong character, worked in the houses
of Quincy families, cleaning, cooking, sewing,
singing songs of a homeland they would never
see again. My mummo among these valiant
Finns gets my attention with this April storm;
she who embodied sisu, and implanted it
in my own mother, who passed it on to us her
children in the genes of our hidden souls.
*sisu: Perseverance in the face of great odds,
associated with Finns and Finland.
Anxious scratching of clay pots
on back seats folded down asks,
Where are we going?
Beside me the maidenhair rustles
in expectation. Cacti bump against
windows, breaking spines; juices chilled,
they stand alert. Several Swedish ivy apron
out, oblivious and shiny, they preen the whole
way there. With each knocking bump
along the road, donkeys’ tails weep in mute
regret for the table cleft by shadow left behind.
In April 1965 I took leave of my job as a newspaper reporter in Worcester, MA, and traveled alone aboard the R.M.S. Sylvania to Liverpool, England. I returned on the same liner in July 1965.
The Osher Map Library in Portland, ME, held an exhibition on the age of ocean liners and added my donated ephemera with commentary on the trip excerpted from the diary I kept of the ocean voyages to their on-line materials on the exhibition.
Have a look here.