Immigration – by Ana Doina

What a wild motley throng we are—
each one of us hauling our one-way luggage
filled to the brim with whatever superstitions
and beliefs we think we’ll need to start over
the rest of our lives.
It is a good day for departure—
the autumn equinox. Fate cannot tip
the balance between day and night. The air,
still ripe with summer, is clear for flight
to the enchanted land where roses
always blossom. How strident our strange
tongues sound inside the airplane, among
Americans returning home.
Just look at us: Ivan nods his head for no
and shakes it to say yes, in true Bulgarian
fashion; Liuba sings her daughter a sad
Lithuanian song; I hold, as an amulet,
a small flute made of Carpathian walnut;
Imar is clad in his blue African toga.
We are the chosen ones. Why us and not
the others still waiting back on shore? ‘Specified
measures, toughening criteria for asylum.’
We have to learn to take whatever chance
brings us, trust our hands, our talismans,
our lucky stars, our freedom.
The airplane flies us against time
into a new dawn—a migration in September,
toward a latter-day Eden. Boisterous, Imar
strikes up a conversation with an old lady
from Kentucky, “You American?” he asks,
“I American too,” he says. “In five years I
American. Go work, pay tax, get rich, be free,”
he chants, drunk with the music of his new tongue.
Loud and passionate like any pilgrims, we leave
our seats to crowd a window, when Liuba
calls, “There, there She is!” The Mother of Exiles—
the statue, and her golden flame brightening
the shores of our promised land. Each one of us,
homeless, tired, poor, come to offer our sole
possession—our future.


Ana Doina, Romanian-born American writer living in New Jersey, left Romania during the Ceausescu regime due to political pressures. Her poems appeared in national and international print and online magazines such as North American Review, Rattle, California Quarterly, Paterson Review, Crab Orchard Review, and the textbook Teaching Literature in the Twenty-First Century. She won Honorable Mention in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards for Poems on the Jewish Experience contest in 2007. Two of her poems were nominated for 2002 and 2004 Pushcart Prize.

(Some lines taken from “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, and Assembly Joint Resolution No. 45, introduced by Assembly Member Polanco.)