Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Ellis Island is an island that is located in Upper New York Bay in the Port of New York and New Jersey, United States. It was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States as the nation’s busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990. Long considered part of New York, a 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found that most of the island is in New Jersey. The south side of the island, home to the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, is closed to the general public and the object of restoration efforts spearheaded by Save Ellis Island.

For many, Ellis Island was the beginning of our plight in America. The “Land of Opportunity” beckoned and immigrants (our ancestors) came to her teeming shores. There are many directions you can go with this: A beginning poem, an arrival poem, a poem from the perspective of an immigrants coming to this new (for them) land. You can write an “ancestor” poem, a genealogy poem… even a deportation poem!




    The frayed label reads:
    “White Star Lines,”
    calling to mind Olympic and Titanic;
    but another label says
    Yes, that’s right:
    steerage, on an older ship;
    that’s how they would have come.

    Under the heavy lid,
    inquiring eyes
    stare forth from dark daguerrotypes
    and tintypes and other types
    of old pictures. Amidst
    these lie brown-cornered books,
    pamphlets of rules and rights
    for naturalized citizens.

    This is all there is
    of those people:
    amber photographs
    and age-softened documents
    full of Victorian hieroglyphics.
    Yet, I hold these old people close
    by concatenations of circumstance,
    I have their eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Inprocessing

    he asks your name
    and when you say it
    he writes down what he hears
    you are forever known by
    a name not your own

    Liked by 2 people

  3. connielpeters


    I don’t remember much about Ellis Island
    or even the Statue of Liberty.
    I remember being on the ferry
    and my little niece looking into the bay
    saying, “Goodbye, water,
    we have to pick up Lori Peters at the airport.”
    My thirteen-year-old daughter
    had been in Jordan all summer
    and I wasn’t thinking much about history,
    just the immediate future
    when I’d see her get off that plane
    with a duffle bag
    about as big as she was.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. July 28 – Ellis Island

    The New Beginning

    Millions have passed through
    Many penniless or nearly
    Only a heart full of hope
    And the clothes on their backs
    They came from every corner
    Of this crazy mixed up world
    Looking for a new life and
    Freedom from oppression
    And a new beginning

    With gratitude in their souls
    They worked with calloused hands
    Sweat and blood freely donated
    To make a better life
    With thankfulness they offered
    To serve and protect America
    So those that weren’t yet here
    Could live a life of freedom
    And a new beginning

    Liked by 2 people

  5. An Island Fighting to Age with Grace (a haibun)

    We were on a private tour in the late 1970’s of what is now called Ellis Island
    which was the first stop on the path to enter the United States late 1800’s to
    the mid 1950’s. We saw things and places that were not on any regular tour.
    A place where some of our relatives had come through two, some three
    generations ago. Those who thought they were streetwise in their Mother
    countries thrown into a mass ganglion of people being processed. Some may
    have been delinquents, others may have appeared creepy just because they
    held every possession they could within the layers of rags they called clothes.
    Others in better brackets of financial means sought to avoid those who seemed
    cheap. ‘They’ not wanting to be near those they could not understand, or made to
    suffer lack of expected comforts, wanted to have all manor of courtesy extended.
    And yet all who came through were treated equally. Since all were strangers.

    It was an implosive habitat – that island. For some never left. To full of illness
    to be allowed freedom to step onto the ferries that would carry them one step
    closer to the land of opportunity to Liberty Island. To ‘The land of Milk and Honey’,
    where streets were paved with gold. Too many ended up in the Charnel waiting
    to be cremated. How many know of the crematorium on Ellis Island – a defense
    to rid the states of fever filled diseases that could not be treated.

    There was no geometric patterns, just masses of roped poles that took hours to
    worm through. But the dreams of a better existence never grew old. And that
    may be the reason why some of our grandparents withheld their language from
    us. Wanting their children and grandchildren not have to be tied to the
    superstitions and traditions of their people. Only perhaps a mild disservice
    for all they gave up in order to add freedom to their and our resumes.

    So many names were changed through the processing. Brothers coming through
    at different times received different names. Misspellings were the least of anyone’s
    problems. Especially when all one could write was an X or an O. One can only
    imagine the ghosts that may still haunt the grounds. I know my own memories
    if that tour are chillingly real – even after almost forty years.

    brick and stone foundations
    may crumble; dreams though, live on
    through our sleepless nights


    For those who would like to go to the post at my site to see the four prompts I used:
    An Island Fighting to Age with Grace




    I have come to America.
    We are huddled here, masses
    of peoples from many places.
    Polish, German, Irish, Italian.
    Swedish, Nordic, Austrian, Czech…
    Slowly, we are processed to be free.
    Men, women and children;
    both strong and infirm.
    Some are detained;
    but I am lucky.
    The lady of liberty says,
    “Welcome to America, Jozef”.
    I am free.

    Your son,

    Liked by 1 person

  7. New Lives

    From Russia and Romania
    my grandparents took
    a terrifying risk–fled
    their native countries
    to start a new life
    in America. They came
    here poor, hoping
    employment opportunities
    awaited them. How would they
    manage without a word
    of English? Would traditions
    and cultures for which
    they were persecuted,
    be accepted in this new land?

    My father’s parents birthed
    two children, who taught
    them English, and made them

    My mother’s parents birthed
    seven children, some of whom
    had short lives, as did they.
    In healthier circumstances,
    they too, would have been proud
    of their children.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ellis Island

    Sea’s surface glittered
    days and nights I dreamt of land –

    Copyright © Hannah Gosselin 2015




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