The Day I left Frances in Harvard

And trees were on the green side
Of Summer’s exit
And all was itemized like a religion
She came up through
And away time was caged in a beat
Arranged at the cost of TV anger
In a hat and a hop and seven bullets
And fifty rented diamonds
It was the day before the before and after
I gazed at the shades of truth
A long baggage ripped my vision
Perhaps the illusion of America
Made me pay for fatherhood
I called within
but I stood in the open fields
Understanding shaped her eyes
“Be strong” they said
And love was strange to foreign eyes and staged its drama
For all I loved the word “future” was my instant assassin
This was the time of icons dressed and undressed
In purple and black and bling
There was no space except for feeling
Back were our fishing trips
The little girl that jumped from her bed to get Santa’s presents
Seventeen years setting time our conditions laid in Cambridge
And I tried to give and I had nothing
And she tried to express that we weren’t; that we are
I offered my watch as a reverence
A sign that time had proven stronger
For all I loved laid in one embrace
Half me
Half the strength of Massachusetts

Rafael Román Martel
9 11 05 UC

I wrote this poem nine years ago. I had just separated from my only daughter Frances for the first time in 16 years. For all that time and the rest of time she was and will be the light of my life. I remember my wife and I walking like zombies for months after we left her in Harvard to grow and fly; we had given her roots and wings. Next to my wife she was the closest human being to me. I would think of my daughter all the time. I would go to work, school at night, and when I came back relished the moment I came home and see her radiant face, read to her, teach her about life, history, literature, filmography, politics, philosophy, character, the value of loyalty, the experience of writing and self defense. Always making it clear to her to be thankful to be a citizen of the best democracy in the world and to make her understand the evil of Communism which had destroyed our family back in Cuba.

The year she went to Harvard we had just bought a new house but the fact that Frances had left for college made it look empty. Uncomprehended, like all poets are, I made copies of this poem and gave it to some of my colleagues at Emerson High School who did not make any comments because people usually do not comment on what they can’t understand. As a poet I do understand that. “Poetry triumphs over intelligence” the great Wallace Stevens wrote. Frances graduated with honors from Harvard, and in 2013 she graduated from Fordham Law School with a Doctorate in Law just turning 25, along the way she accumulated a long list of triumphs, accomplishments which filled our lives with joy. She is now a writer. Yet this poem reminds me of a great day because all great days are not happy and filled with smiles. A great day can also be full of selfish love that results in unequivocal triumph. May God Bless our wonderful daughter Always.

Frances graduating from Harvard University in 2009

Frances earns a Doctorate’s Degree from Fordham University in May 2013 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.


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