tree of life photo
Tree of Life
by Gail Fishman Gerwin

On the spring day when
Charlie Giordanella’s
building crew sealed the
roof planks on our new house,
they nailed a tiny fir where
the chimney would sit.

From The Old Country,
they spoke in unfamiliar tongues
yet their cheers honoring a shared
feat transcended our language gap.

Tradition mandated the tree,
along with an outdoor festa,
blue sky as backdrop, upturned
stones on the excavated lot
rocking our feet.

Wearing caps, sweatshirts,
tool aprons, the workers
delighted for the camera,
held cardboard cups,
hoisted a bottle of rye.

The photo shows me in
my green cotton coat,
brown corduroy collar,
sandwich in hand,
peering sideways
with a semi-smile.

Headed toward a place where
no moving vans would roar
into our driveway in the dark of
night, where no bullies would
hamper my walk to school,
I felt relief.

SOURCE: “Tree of Life” originally appeared in the author’s collection Sugar and Sand.

gail and ben wedding

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR/PHOTO CAPTION: My parents Cele and Benjamin Fishman, both of whom came to America as young children, met, married, and worked together to build a moving and storage business that my grandfather founded, took great joy from our new home in Paterson, New Jersey. My memory of this day is as vivid as when it occurred. As a bride more than four decades ago, I held my father’s hand as he led me down the porch stairs of this home to my own new life and the moves it has entailed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gail Fishman Gerwin is the author of three poetry collections: Sugar and Sand (Paterson Poetry Prize finalist), Dear Kinfolk (Paterson Award for Literary Excellence), and Crowns (Aldrich Press, 2016). Her poem “A State in Mind” was a third-prize winner in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. She is associate poetry editor of Tiferet Journal and is a writing-workshop facilitator. Gail’s poetry, book reviews, fiction, essays, and plays appear in print and online literary journals, in other media, and on stage.Visit her at