Microfilm is not like a seder dish, and
the Official United States Census of 1920
is no Haggadah, and the reading room
of the National Archives in Waltham, Ma., is
a strange place for a Bronx family to have a reunion,
but the play of light and shadow on the machine
is as familiar as my dreams of you, images rushing by,
a blur, until a frame locks in, and I hear
Jamie cry, "I found them!" and there you are,
at 206 E. 100 St., New York County, Enumeration District 1181,
Sheet 20, Line 62 (in that order, please),
Max Lubin, "head of household," Sarah Lubin,
his "wife," and finally my mother, then called
Beckie, "daughter," age forever fixed
as "Not Available" by her suspicious
and we are together again for this moment,
in this most unlikely place, sutured
by technology and obsessive
records, and for this eternal instant
yours is a happy family, just one among the many millions,
fixed in time, line-by-line, on this blank photograph of voices.
There are no infidelities recorded here. They ask you
only: "Birthplace," "Year of Entry," "Trade,"
"Mother Tongue." Max has not yet been thrown out of the house
by my grandmother, bags packed and waiting, and my
mother is still too young to sit by a lonely window
dreaming of the poetry she will write down one day.
All this will come. Jerry will come. Daniel and
William will come. They are only two or three censuses
but I am sitting now in Waltham at a microfilm reading machine,
shaken by what I have found, and wanting to be with you, as I put you
back into the drawer, put all of you back, this microfilm,
this pulsing heart.