My maman used to work

in Hershey, Pennsylvania,

as a resident in sneakers and scrubs,

wondering what she abandoned to arrive

with such hopefulness on this shore.

The winds here are chocolate-


smelling, the sweetness of chocolate

comes in from the factory, sickens her work.

But maman must shore

herself up. Tonight she leaves Pennsylvania

for Baltimore, where papa will arrive

soon, so Lebanese in his scrubs,


and they will hold each other, happy. So she scrubs

the floors and, when the bath is hot, her body and chocolate

hair. Soon the time will arrive

to know she is too female to work

in medicine, too foreign to be alone in Pennsylvania

with her family on another shore.


But now Maman is entangled, one foot on shore

the other in water, her scrubs

a heap of Pennsylvania

on the bathroom floor. Still chocolate-

scented, she welcomes papa home from work

and wishes for deliverance to arrive.


And now, at twenty-one, I arrive

at the end of girlhood, unsure of the shore

to which I belong. The day I was born, maman stopped her work.

Seeing me held, kindly, against my papa’s scrubs

proved sweet enough; the chocolate

wind in Hershey, Pennsylvania


would never trouble her again. And all I knew from Pennsylvania

was that maman worked at “Hershey”. I’d arrive

at her bedside some nights, asking why she’d quit chocolate-

making so soon after coming here, to American shore.

How could I have known the scrubs

in the closet were hers? That years of work


can arrive at this? Lives can work

their way apart. Even now, in Pennsylvania, a woman scrubs

at chocolate-stains, gently, floating further and further from shore.