Safe Harbor: Haibun

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–from Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”


Our ship is stalled in the harbor–the weather, customs duties, bribes to officials—who knows why? We live in suspended time in a liminal space—on a ship, but not at sea; people who have left their homes, but who have not found a new one, refugees. I worry about leaving—perhaps it would not be so bad to stay? But it is too late, we are sailing. Weeks seem like months, as my stomach rolls and heaves with the ship, till at last we arrive. We are weary, but grateful for our new home, a small room in the house of distant kin. At night, we walk to the beach to escape the heat of the day. My sister’s face mirrors my own—relief that the journey is over, sadness that we may never see our parents again, and joy that we are safe. We dance on the sand under a moonlit sky.


Faults in men, not stars

lighting a sea-crossed journey

freedom has a price–

beckoning with torch raised high,

the beacon separates, too




This is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge.  The prompt words were mirror and harbor. I remember my grandfather telling me about when he was a boy, after he, his mother, and his sister left Kiev, their ship was stuck in Trieste. I don’t know why or how they got there. Trieste was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I mentioned him in a previous post called Feast of the Immigrant. 

And here’s the Hamilton mix tape based on the line from the show, “Immigrants, we get the job done.”



35 thoughts on “Safe Harbor: Haibun

  1. This one really touches my heart. My newest ancestor immigrants were great-grandparents, so I never had those direct family stories. But my uncle (married to my mother’s sister) walked out of Communist Hungary in the 1950s and his journey followed a winding and insecure path to the United States. He never saw his parents again until the break up of the Soviet Union.
    And of course, all the refugees in the world today…
    (and wonderful painting!) (K)

    • I’m so glad that it touched you, Kerfe. It’s good that your uncle did get to see his parents again–finally. My other grandfather never saw the family he left behind, and he wasn’t sure after WWII if his sisters had survived until he finally received a letter from them.

  2. Merril, I got really emotional reading this spectacular Haibun. This is what America is all about. Well done! ❤

  3. Pingback: Colleen’s Weekly #Poetry Challenge # 40 – SUGAR & SPICE – Colleen Chesebro ~ Fairy Whisperer

  4. We all are wanting a safe harbor, for why would so many risk their lives to reach a distant shore?
    ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”

    Happy 4th, dear Merril! May we soon learn independence from racism, bigotry, lies, etc.

  5. This is why the 4th of July means a lot still to my family. My grandpa’s parents families traveled to America, while my grandma came over with just her mother. They met on a street corner in NY City, young, hard working people who raised my mother in love and acceptance. Mom says my grandma lived by neighbors from more than one ethnicity or background. They weren’t in separate pockets, they were in overlapping areas. I cannot imagine not enjoying different cultures with all their unique qualities.
    It blows my mind to think our First Lady doesn’t feel the hypocrisy within a man who has married more than one woman with foreign roots.
    Argghh! Your poem showed hope in dancing in the night along beacon lit sea, mixed with sadness of how the light’s beam separates us. Nicely worded to reflect both parts of freedom.

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