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Ghazals Upon Returning to Hispañiola

It was diaspora or death: the oligarchs took everything, the Americans gawked.
To think that a small place could fit so much hate; so we left. Carter helped,
and for twenty years of Sunday’s the east river was tinfoil our mothers tried
to smooth out, the towers on Broadway we dreamed under and wept. Helped
that we were inmigrantes indecentes chopos campunos. How many insults
could they make of our island? Cash wrung from hours like mopwater, helped
with a third of every paycheck wired back home to family, some we’d never met.
And the fated return for mother’s funeral? Every hand on the airplane said, “Come help
your brother returning, and clap!” We – I – land; trembling yolero, absent father,
who tried to be, though they say no man is an. “Dile que ya puede llorar.” It helps.


It wasn’t diaspora, it was divorce: patriarch narcissism wearing pit-stained t-shirt, a winking eye cunning cutthroat charm, and next moment slick inexplicable wrath.

My father comes home. My mother’s pregnant with me. He brushes his teeth before saying hello. There’s another woman – always is on this island – anvil for the sun’s wrath.

Patria and patriarch withhold affection. They wipe brow with the pale monogrammed linen handkerchief of white supremacy. I am sweat, evanescing in the heat of their wrath.

In Santo Domingo, my father wears a chacabana, lives in a concrete tower, plays Sweet Melissa on his slide guitar. In Miami, my mother listens to bachata, safe from his wrath.

Every summer I return to study anger: fire ant syntax, flame tree phrasing, milk-blood cactus choice of word. Insult is his tenderness. Seasons I stay quiet, then I find my wrath

For My Mother After Her Postpartum Depression

Miami, 1996

August was an ache to the garden, the primrose

flagging in heat, your dreams so choppy you

ground teeth through hummingbird night. I

can still hear all the buzz and tremble. Back

before bassinets, pampers, breast feeding pump

pamphlets, back before the sweet fragrance

of life turned sour with babies’ vomit,

you had a freezing quiet. Now grandmother

commands the livid orchestra of doubt about your

second marriage to play scherzo. The musicians

willfully ignore. I am nine, and already know

you’ve created life, only to regret it. Witness

your rocking on the white mecedora;

in the gloam, my brothers blue shawl is black.

Mario Alejandro Ariza grew up in Santo Domingo and Miami. He is currently a Michener Fellow in poetry at the University of Miami’s MFA program, and holds a Master’s degree in Hispanic Cultural Studies from Columbia University. His poetry can be found in Gulf Coast, The Raleigh Review, The Baffler, Luna Luna, and The Rumpus.