The Jewish Gauchos of Entre Rios, 1917

(for my grandparents, Pincus and Miriam)

Everything is their fault, from the breadcrust economy
to the Tsar’s scraggle-beard. They’re even fined for refusing to pray
for Alexander’s health. The border-door slams behind,
severs them from pogroms and borscht.
With papers forged and hem-sewn, they burrow
in horse-pissed hay on a train across Poland,
vow never to speak
of the left world. No way
to know friend from fist –

hold me Pinny,
right here, Mira.

In Argentina, Baron Hirsh buys them a chunk of land,
some chickens, a plow. Jewish cowboys in prayer shawls
and wide-legged bombachas herd cattle,
harvest sunflowers from seeds that clung to pant-legs
as they fled the Ukraine.
Seven years dreaming of America – wait, soon.
With satchels and visas, they sail into New York Harbor,
make their way down the plank,
two ants grasping the tip of a crumb.

from Storyscape Journal,, February 2012