Claudia Ann Seaman Award
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yvanna Vien Tica
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.
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR