There Was Once A Secret Among Us
by Dejah Patterson

         In Memory of Margaret Sanger

I. A row of women on the pier. 

II. Midnight.

A row of women on the pier 
holding empty suitcases 
hoping to blend into wood and sea 
never once looking at one another 
but at the darkness behind one another's back. 

III. Two am. 

A row of women on the pier 
with empty suitcases 
waiting to adopt 
a drifting cargo of rubber moons, 
their last children. 

IV. New York.

The chug of a tugboat 
beneath the lady's torch— 
with a gift from France 
on board the dark deck 
stuffed inside wet crates 
pulled from the cold ocean by 
Liberty's strong hands.

V. 1915 

Wet crates marked with X's 
like lonely chromosomes. 
Inside, immigrating diaphragms 
stuffed like corks 
in the long necks of French brandy bottles.

VI. Dead of night. 

Women standing quietly on the pier 
all in a row, 
waiting to bring home pale, soft orbs

bundled up in empty suitcases 
held close against their bodies 
and still slightly wet. 
One woman looking dead 
ahead asks sisters and reflections of stars 
Why have you come?
My husband won't sleep on the roof.
They have got us, comstock and barrel.
One more and I will kill myself.
One more and this sea 
can goddamn have me.
One more and I will drown 
in a brandy bottle. 

VII. Three thirty am. 

The pushing of the sea against the pier 
and thump of a tugboat 
and she steps onto the wooden slats, this 
Lady of Liberty 
come from the sea. 
One more and I would have died. 

VIII. A row of women on the pier. 

The creak of wet wood opening 
and the shutting of suitcases 
now full of future emptiness, a new life. 
Lady of Liberty: give me your tired women 
and hungry children; your angry mothers 
and graveyard infants. 
Dear Mrs. Sanger— 
one more 
just one more 

and I would have come in with the tides.

Return to LSR Return to Poetry

Dejah Patterson has always loved writing, and has studied poetry, fiction, and third-person biography writing at the UO in Eugene, OR. She has won several awards for her writing, as well as five dollars from a lottery ticket, and hopes to pursue writing, traveling, and teaching as a career. Dejah is also a songwriter, a musician, and an artist, so if the whole writing thing falls through she’s got those other things going for her, which is nice. She hopes to make it big as a writer someday, so that she can get a roadie to write her bios for her.