Skip to main content
Login to unlock Email share
By: Julia Alvarez
The night we fled the country, Papi,
You told me we were going to the beach,
Hurried me to get dressed along with the others,
While posted at a window you looked out
5. at a curfew-darkened Ciudad Trujillo,
Speaking in worried whispers to your brothers,
Which car to take, who’d be willing to drive it,
What explanation to give should we be discovered . . .
On the way to the beach, you added, eyeing me.
10. The uncles fell in, chuckling phony chuckles,
What a good time she’ll have learning to swim!
Back in my sisters room Mami was packing
A hurried bag, allowing one toy apiece,
Her red eye’s belying her explination:
15. A week at the beach so Papi can get some rest.
She dressed us in our best dresses, party shoes.
Something was off, I knew, but I was young
And didn’t think adult things could go wrong.
So as we quietly filed out of the house
20.We wouldn’t see again for another decade,
I let myself lie back in deep waters,
My arms out like Jesus’ on his cross,
And instead of sinking down like I’d always done,
Magically, that night, I could stay up,
25. Floating out past the driveway, past the gates,
In the black Ford, Papi grim at the wheel,
Winding through the back roads, stroke by difficult stroke,
Out on the highway, heading toward the coast.
Past the checkpoint, we raced toward the airport,
30. My sisters crying when we turned before
the family beach house, Mami consoling,
there was a better surprise for us!
She couldn’t tell, though, until . . . until we got there.
But I had already swum ahead and guessed
35. Some loss much larger than I understood,
More danger than the deep end of the pool.
At the dark, deserted airport we waited.
All night in a fitful sleep, I swam.
At dawn the plane arrived, and as we boarded,
40. Papi, you turned, your eyes scanned the horizon
As if you were trying to sight a distant swimmer,
Your and frantically waving her back in,
For you knew as we stepped inside the cabin
That part of both of us had been set adrift.
45. Weeks later, wandering our new city, hand in hand,
You tried to explain the wonders: escalators
As moving belts; elevators: pulleys and rope;
Blonde hair and blue eyes: a genetic code.
We stopped before a summary display window
50. At Macy’s, The Worlds Largest Department Store,
To admire a family outfitted for the beach:
The handsome father, slim and sure of himself,
So unlike you, Papi, with your thick mustache,
Your three-piece suit, your fedora hat, your accent.
55. And by his side a girl; that looked like Heidi
In my story book waded in colored plastic.
We stood awhile, marveling at America,
Both of us trying hard to feel luckier
Than we felt, both of us pointing out
60. The beach pails, the shovels, the sand castles
No wave would ever topple, the red and blue boats.
And when we backed away, we saw our reflections
Superimposed, big eyed, dressed to formally
With all due respect with visitors to this country.
65. Or like, Papi, two swimmers looking down
At the quite surface of our island waters,
Seeing there faces right before plunging in,
Eager, afraid, not yet sure of the outcome.
The summary of this peom is a family leaving germany.
Mood: The mood of this poem is being scared. ''Speaking in worried whispers to your brothers,...''
Simile, The whole Peom is a simile
The theme of this peom is that a family will sacrifice for the good of their family.