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CAS for Database

Yvanna Vien Tica

Manila, Philippines

Faith Academy


               The day we left was marked

by nothing but gauzy light.

               Everyone slept facing the wall; we could not bear

anything but dust bunnies, floors, and hidden diets

                of unswept pencil shavings. The truth is that we were

not ready to leave even if immigration shut

               their eyes to unsee our faces. The truth is, the night

before our flight was reminiscent of Gethsemane—

                divine blood replaced by our own shivering teeth. Today, I awoke

remembering our apartment’s tired face

                still weeping at the sight of empty rooms.

My father was determined to leave this land

                clean, so we’d scrubbed every wall with lemon-scented

ammonia. The truth is, the apartment smelled like spring

                in the bright, polished hall leading to my third-grade classroom

where I watched the movie about the massacre

            of monarch butterflies killed by a harsh winter.

I thought I could worry about nothing but

               the frost, or how those monarchs fell from trees like tears

or spit from the movie’s aerial view. I thought I could

               worry only about leaving the school library armed

with books and stickers, not how much

               longer we could stay. This is the price we paid:

our startled childhoods awoke suddenly, hearing

                the vacuum next door before we suffocated

under clean cotton sheets tasting nothing

                like America. O land of the free, O land of the brave, that day

I resolved to leave with a head unbowed and defiant, but failed:

                I could not say goodbye without remembering those quiet eyes looking away,

or those monarchs’ faint wings buried under snow. The day we left,

                the sunlight spooled into more overweight carry-ons.

The truth is, the smell of lemon-scented ammonia

                clings to my poetry long after we left.


              O God—

I could freeze in this light.


Migrating uses the imagery of simple details to reveal heavy conflict, juxtaposing dropping monarch butterflies to illusionary freedom. Through striking allusions and emotive flashbacks, hope falls to the cold winter ground along with the wings of the monarch as the speaker reflects on what the American Dream is truly about.

Yvanna Vien Tica is a Filipina writer with a hearing impairment who grew up in Manila and in a Chicagoland suburb. A high school senior, she is the 2021 Hippocrates Young Poet and the 2021 1455 Teen Poetry Contest Winner. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Verse Daily, Poet Lore, Salt Hill, and Shenandoah, among others, and has been performed virtually in a 2021 UN Climate Change Conference event. She reads for Muzzle Magazine and tweets @yvannavien. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying nature and thanking God for another day.


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