Monday, June 6, 2011


Doris Lueth Stengel

Grandfather sailed into New York on the Bremerhaven,
clutching the American dream.
He waved to the lady with the torch---
she was an immigrant too, from France.

In the steamer trunk were his tools,
plane, lathe, level, chisels.
A cabinet maker by trade, also
undertaker, because he made coffins.

He traveled to Minnesota,
where other Germans had settled.
The train traversed broad prairies.
Such good land, such opportunity.

Then came the day when a farmer
hanged himself from rafters in his barn.
The widow pleaded with grandpa
to find a place to bury her husband.

Righteous townspeople
would not abide lying near a suicide.
They were buried south of town,
tidily laid down in order of death,
too thrifty to waste farm land on large plots.

A man must be put into the ground.
The immigrant carpenter walked north
where a family had a small private cemetery.
Could he buy one plot? Not inside the fence.

To this day, too sinful to lie among neighbors,
that man lies alone outside the fence.


Doris Lueth Stengel grew up in North Dakota. Her paternal grandfather immigrated from Germany and this is his story. Doris is a member of Heartland Poets, League of Minnesota Poets and National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) and has served as president of all 3 organizations.

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