The Second S
Somewhere between a shipyard in Stockholm and Ellis Island
my great-great-great grandfather lost the second S in his last name.
My last name. Our last name.
I like to think that he lost it on accident,
left it behind like my own father loses wallets
on the table at restaurants. That he left it
lying on the kitchen counter, or inside the pocket
of an old woolen coat that his wife threw away
without looking. That the little children of the village
found it while he was walking away, ran after him, crying
hey! hey! you lost your name
but maybe he just didn’t hear them over the promise of America
ringing in his ears.
But there’s also the idea
that he boarded the ship and leaned over the railing
and thought about American tongues stumbling
over the extra letters, and how he wanted
his great-great-great grandchildren to fit in,
to be pronounceable. There’s also the idea
that he just dropped it into the water, or threw it