in Mariel, deck swarming with strangers,
no life jackets, sun flirting
with incoming clouds, the teenager
already missed his girlfriend
who’d stayed behind, pregnant with his child.
I’ll bring you both to America, he’d said
—words that still haunt him.
Decades later, in a neat bungalow
in South Amboy, Santeria candles burn
in a small shrine surrounded
with flowers. On the stove, pungent
arroz con pollo simmers.
Tomas explains after the boat landed,
he had to give up his passport;
in return, ten bucks and a bus ticket.
Stateless, no papers, he’s raised
three children born here--
their mother in prison.
Always one question away
from deportation, but to where?
Castro doesn’t want me either, he says,
and who would care for my children?
Tomas supports his family
in a shadow economy--
in his driveway, a derelict car
he’s fixing up to swap.
He shows me photos of a son
he’s never met—his first-born--
a captain in the Cuban army
and another photo
of his mother cradling
his dark-eyed granddaughter.
I hope to see my mother
one more time before she dies.
*Author Note: In the 1980s, 125,000 Cubans left from the port of Mariel in what was called the Freedom Flotilla.
Nancy Scott is the managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey. She is the author of eight books of poetry: Down to the Quick (Plain View Press, 2007), One Stands Guard, One Sleeps (Plain View Press, 2009), A Siege of Raptors (Finishing Line Press, 2010), Detours & Diversions (Main Street Rag, 2011), On Location (March Street Press, 2011), Midwestern Memories (Aldrich Press, 2013), Running Down Broken Cement (Main Street Rag, 2014) and The Owl Prince (Aldrich Press, 2015). She began writing poetry as a way to record the stories she had heard during more than 35 years as a caseworker for the State of New Jersey and an advocate in the non-profit sector for abused and neglected children and for homeless families. She is also an adoptive parent and a former foster parent. www.nancyscott.net