The first to come was my great-grandmother’s father. Several months later, he sent a message back which stated simply: America is the Promised Land. The buildings are tall, the work is plenty and the streets of New York are paved with gold.
Now I live in Ireland. On the flight over they project a map of the Western world on a screen and I watch a small pixelated airplane haphazardly draw a red line, arced like the sole of a foot, over the Atlantic, which is blue. Shortly before dawn I see the lights of Iceland underneath me and I nod off.
My house in Dublin has a green door that slants steeply to the left counterbalancing the building as it leans gently to the right. The rooms are sparse even though the landlord has hung up tacky art on every wall. My feet are always cold, and there’s a pub down the road with a sign on it that reads, “there is a good time coming, be it ever so far away”.
Sometimes I sing on Grafton St. A girl called Kitty stands on the corner. She has pink hair and has never seen me without my sunglasses on. She’s not very pretty but she’s funny and I’m attracted to her anyway. When she asks me what I’m doing I say, “howling to Hibernia” and try to look mysterious. She giggles and drops 10 cents in my guitar case and then brushes her lips against mine. “This is for you”. The next time I see her I duck into the nearest shop and wait for her to pass.
Back in New York my great-great-grandfather has died of pneumonia while washing windows on E. 46th street. By the time his family arrives at Ellis Island he will be just a number in a morgue. I know this because my great-grandmother told me once when I was very young. Her face was scabbed and wrinkled and she furrowed her brow as she tried to remember his name.