AT 3 A.M. I AM THINKING...


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 a suspicious
                                                   immigrant mother,

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
           away,

       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.



All written material © Bill Schechter, 2016
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