South Florida's Children - A Call to Free Prisoner Antonio Balta

Uploaded by freebalta on 26.07.2010

We are yours, South Florida Your children.
Nourished on soft air Brilliant hues
Mesmerized by sensuous colors Of Bougainvilleas, Hibiscus
Framed by wide-leaved Sea Grapes. Nurtured in the arms
Of the Royal Poinciana tree We live and glory in its
Orange-red canopies Rejoice in June celebrations
Despite impending summer storm. And who among us
Who know Florida recall Trees snapped over like
Matchsticks in the 1926 hurricane… Innnocent Miami weeping in shock
As the Storm Serpent Invades its Garden of Eden?
I remember because I saw it The devastation
Heard the laments Astonished tellings...
How Mrs. Russell My grandmother’s friend
Watched in terror when seaweed Hurled against the sixth floor windows
Of her Biscayne Bay Hotel. How others cowered in bathtubs
Held on to each other tremulously Unsure what hurricane was...
What hurricane meant. Florida then was so young,
Only beginning to awaken To its golden destiny.
It seemed naīve, as I was then A young child, six years old...
Looking back now So many decades later...
I love you, Fort Lauderdale, Florida But there is a catch in the throat.
In your dazzling opulence Glamorous, svelte
So blessed with panache Sweet to the senses
You too, have your Snake Your Serpent
Nurturing wrong… A mockery of mercy.
Not for us rest... Not while an innocent father,
Antonio Balta, Is trapped in custody...
Not while we--the favored ones Party in the cocktail hour
Smug and assured. For aren’t we, the social set, aligned
With the Broward Establishment and Its well-meaning minions of the Law?
Imagine how hard it is to be The distinguished Lady Judge
Or the dedicated Prosecutor Trying conscientiously to do a difficult job?
No one likes to hear of babies Dying in hot cars
We are aghast, appalled! When the Press headlines
“Father Gambles While Baby Dies” Isn’t it natural to assume
That this must be a bad guy That newspaper accounts are true?
But what if news stories Are only partly true
Despite sincerest effort By careful young reporters
To be accurate What if impressions
Are not quite as they seem What then?
What if this uneducated Dad Who cared for his baby
While he groomed horses Is not a hard-nosed gambler
But a simple guy who works at the racetrack? Not an indifferent father
But an employee looking for his boss For a reference?
Not a criminal But a distracted young man
Who placed a bet or two while waiting For his connection?
What if he were A clueless father
Unaware, like too many others, That when a baby is left alone in a car
Disaster looms? Aren’t we the educated elite?
Our pebbles are cast high on the beach Safe from surf and storm
We are the favored ones Who can sway public opinion.
Should we spare ourselves From all participation
Be immune to citizen responsibility? For who, among us
In a lifetime of near-misses Has not erred?
Who has not Unintentionally done wrong
When no wrong was intended? Who has not at times
Been plunged into The painful pit of remorse?
No drugs, no alcohol involved here Only human error
When we condemn Antonio Balta Aren’t we condemning ourselves?
How can we leave Antonio Balta incarcerated
When other fathers, Of more elevated social status,
In professional positions, Are never arrested
Or remain free on probation... Doesn’t his plight seem morally wrong
A deficiency of decency, Blue-collar vs white collar justice?
Balta’s tragedy of March 13, 2004 Was an accident.
The sentence of March 21, 2005 May be the crime.
In his moving letters he writes Of his baby daughter, Veronika,
Of sleepless nights remembering her. "Punishment won’t bring her back",
He says ruefully. "I miss her so much
But I don’t think the Law Understands my pain".
Again and again He repeats sadly
"I did a mistake". In March, 2008, Antonio Balta
Entered the fifth year Of his 20 year term.
He is no longer the forgotten man Because in our astonishing web culture
What once was local, and unnoticed Becomes global and well-known.
If Antonio is remembered today It is also because
Florida Representative Joe Gibbons, A warm-hearted grandfather
Is aware of the tragic event That previously occurred in his district.
With Florida Senator Mandy Dawson, He has put legislation into effect
To warn parents to never Leave a child alone in a car
With possible penalty of up to Five years in prison.
But five years is not twenty years! Balta’s too- long sentence
Calls now for review and revision! Oh, people of South Florida
Speak up, speak out Now under evolving deportation laws
Perhaps Antonio Balta Can soon go home to Peru.
How wonderful it would be to free This serious, dignified young man
A model prisoner, Now a talented master carpenter
Who dreams of building houses For the needy here or
If he returns to his homeland. How did our resplendent Florida
MyFlorida, OurFlorida Our beautiful state stumble
Into this ugly outcome? Perhaps this verdict
Was also unintentional An accident of its time
Of media repetition that Offered confusing evidence
Community inexperience Lack of national overview...
Florida’s Garden of Eden Does not need a Serpent
We stand on the verge of new beginnings Blazing and brilliant
As bright and glorious As the regal plumage
Of our rejoicing Poinciana Tree. We, too, have gifts to offer
Compassion, inclusion, gratitude Enough strength to defend moral decency
Release prisoner Antonio Balta. No one can banish Hurricanes,
But we, South Florida’s children, In this, our Paradise,
Can banish the Serpent of Wrong