The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Thursday and More Playing Hooky

The Buttonhook
By Mary Jo Salter

President Roosevelt, touring Ellis Island
in 1906, watched the people from steerage
line up for their six-second physical.

Might not, he wondered aloud, the ungloved handling
of aliens who were ill infect the healthy?
Yet for years more it was done. I imagine

my grandmother, a girl in that Great Hall’s
polyglot, reverberating vault
more terrible than church, dazed by the stars

and stripes in the vast banner up in front
where the blessed ones had passed through. Then she did too,
to a room like a little chapel, where her mother

might take Communion. A man in a blue cap
and a blue uniform—a doctor? a policeman?
(Papa would have known, but he had sailed

all alone before them and was waiting
now in New York; yet wasn’t this New York?)—
a man in a blue cap reached for her mother.

Without a word (didn’t he speak Italian?)
he stuck one finger into her mother’s eye,
then turned its lid up with a buttonhook,

the long, curved thing for doing up your boots
when buttons were too many or too small.
You couldn’t be American if you were blind

or going to be blind. That much she understood.
She’d go to school, she’d learn to read and write
and teach her parents. The eye man reached to touch

her own face next; she figured she was ready.
She felt big, like that woman in the sea
holding up not a buttonhook but a torch.


The weather on Wednesday was not quite as beautiful as it was on Tuesday, though it started nearly as warm and held off raining until after everything I wanted to do outdoors. Denise came down from Baltimore for a Deoxys EX raid, before which we had lunch at Mirch Masala in the mall and after which we came back to my house and watched 5/8 of the so-soapy-it's-kind-of-magnificent Tidelands while trying to keep my cats entertained.

Paul's and my evening TV was The Masked Singer which had good songs across the board tonight, followed by the RDJ-Maggie Gyllenhaal episode of Finding Your Roots, which I only just discovered is on Amazon Prime. Here are some photos from my past couple of days of being a slacker, including mall Chinese New Year and winter decorations, a fox in my neighborhood probably trying to steal my neighbor's cat food, and my cats being indulged:

2019-02-05 16.26.46

2019-02-05 13.45.38

2019-02-06 11.50.47

2019-02-06 11.47.23

2019-02-06 14.32.45

2019-02-06 18.37.34

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