“coming to America” – Editor’s Choice

my grandmother is arrested 5 times

before she is allowed to step her heel onto cigarette concrete

lady liberty is not a copper-rained statue, iconic image of freedom


lady liberty is 17, and is my mother

her first time in America, with her first job

counting american dollars at an american store

called Batman


my grandmother’s first taste of america

is her hand feeling for the kick in my mother’s belly

when ma visited back from that 40 hour work week

I was not made in america

but i was an idea that sprouted

on a plane that bridged

across the atlantic


i am performing immigration

and when she has me, on a hospital bed

after hours of my body trying to run out of hers

i am performing citizenship

as the daughter of an immigrant


my first grade class only spoke spanish

i told my teacher it was a mistake, because i spoke english

she asked me, “are you sure?”

i told her, in english, i knew more than this

i had never seen so many confused faces

they changed my classes

but not without

sneaking me a slot of ESL


i guess it is courtesy of america to do this

grab all of the kids whose names end in “ez” “ta” “ia” “ra”

give them an american friend who doesn’t know why they spend

american lunch in a hispanic classroom instead of american cafeteria

and let her ask them

“why did you have to be so stupid?”


when i told my mother

in her american broken english she told me

“she is just sad

her mother doesn’t love her

saca buena nota que ella no te puede decir na’”


i listened to her

i took my american education

and america

ate me up.


this is what happens when you try to own a language

america says you are too stupid to learn

teacher tells your mother, you deserve a future

where textbooks aren’t thrown like stones

teacher tells your mother, she has never met a student

who has turned in loch ness monsters

instead of goldfish


you write america an american universe

and the bits of you bridged from

Dominican Republic and New York,

drop into the atlantic

you cannot stop it

when america burns a bridge, the bridge keeps on fire

america says you can only choose

one side


lady liberty is 44, and is my mother

she prays over me at night, in Dominican spanish

first she gives me her blessing

and then she passes the torch


there isn’t anybody

that can say anything

about me.


Scarlet Gomez is a graduate from The City College of New York with a BA in Creative Writing. She has previously been published in literary journals such as Persephone’s Daughters, Breadcrumbs Magazine, Promethean, and Crabs Fat Magazine. She spends a lot of time re-watching The Office, working, or eating with her boyfriend.