Lots of us remember being a kid in Miami during the 1970s. The small, sleepy southern city was just becoming the cross-cultural metropolis it is today. Denizens of Miami Beach, mainly retirees from the northeast–many of them survivors of the holocaust–would hold weekly dances on Lummus Park in South Beach. For immigrants from Latin America, these were curious cultural affairs.

Aqua-Blue, 1974 – Chaz Mena *

Papi, you’d drive wearing the thin neck ties
short sleeves, and a hat from your New York days,
inside our 1968 aqua-blue Impala.

An old rug crashed down on us every time you braked,
but Ana, sis, reached back and held it in place.
Another thing we learned was never to touch
the Blue Impala at around noon, hot enough
to fry an egg on in our new Florida summers:
Back when I first heard a Waltz, to when
we’d go see Polacos** dance.

Outdoor balls, on the grass, under stringed light bulbs

(Photo: Andy Sweet, Washington Post) Dancers, Lummus Park, Miami Beach, 1974)

X-ing, sagging above them on South Beach lawns

under the seaside clocks

second hands whirling

‘round numbers with dancers twirling


whose numbers, under their arms, faded to an aqua-blue.

When I pointed to them and I asked why,
you didn’t answer, papi. You took off your tie.
“It’s too hot to dress like this”, you said
and took me off your shoulders.
That’s where you had me sit to look down
and watch the Polacos, waltz, in their sandals.

*First published in the The Jewish Literary Journal , February, 2016 http://jewishliteraryjournal.com/

**Never used derisively, it’s Spanish for a person from Poland—a misnomer applied to all immigrants settling in Cuba from Eastern Europe—regardless of faith.