Ninety-Six-Year-Old Estonian
Just before World War II I was smuggled into America on a tramp freighter. There were a hundred of us and only one toilet on the stormy seas. We were never allowed up on deck during our entire passage. The dark was good practice for twenty-five days because a job had been arranged for me in a basement in Brooklyn, twelve hours a day seven days a week so that I didn't see America in the daylight for five months since I arrived in November. In fact I only saw daylight in the late spring, summer, and early fall for ten years. I was held there by fear, working for a Chinaman who had paid my passage. My job was stamping out rubber guns and knives for novelty stores. After a decade of this I strangled the Chinaman and stole his money and consequently had a happier life working on freighters between New York City and ports in Central and South America as a deckhand, taking extra shifts to get daylight hours. For a while I was a thief and gambler but quit this profitable life because it was night work. It was far better to work on vegetable farms in New Jersey, all in the wonderful daylight. Now that I can barely move I have this small room in my nephew's junky house in Nyack. I spend every day from dawn to dusk sitting in this chair watching the light off the Hudson River, which changes every second.
--- From In Search of Small Gods
Jim Harrison
©2009 Copper Canyon Press
Go to a
of the book
from which this poem is taken

Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH