by Nancy Scott
When Tomas boarded the rickety craft
in Mariel, deck swarming with strangers,
no life jackets, sun flirting
with incoming clouds, the teenager
already missed his girlfriend
pregnant with his child.
I’ll bring you both to America, he’d said
—words that haunt him still.
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 was forced 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’s 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 only grandchild.
I pray to see my mother before she dies.
Author’s note: In the 1980s, 125,000 Cubans left from the port of Mariel in what was called the Freedom Flotilla.
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Nancy Scott (website) who is from Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is the author of two full-length books of poetry, Down to the Quick (2007) and One Stands Guard, One Sleeps (2009), both published by Plain View Press, and two chapbooks, A Siege of Raptors (Finishing Line Press, 2010) and Detours & Diversions (Main Street Rag, 2011). She is also the managing editor of U.S. 1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S. 1 Poet’s Cooperative. She began her foray into the art world in 2010, and has begun exhibiting her work and publishing her collages online.