calibrated to the sun
carrying nothing but the weight of wings
what is it like to have no map,
to trust the lines
of land beneath you,
knowing it will take four life-times,
to get there and back?
I am a daughter of migration
of peasants and poverty and politics
and famine and ships
and shorelines and shorelines
in land passed through the hands of empire
like top-hats and opium and tea.
I am the colour of islands
and linen and peatlands and moss
and rice fields and fish skin and copper and silk
of sea of sky of earth
of rock of rock of rock.
I am made of
I am made of brick
I am tombolo,
stretched between outcrops
spider spun lines of latitude
I am cloth
They call me a wanderer,
I’ll take that.
I’ve never been good at seeing borders,
at following the most direct path
from A to B,
nor reading maps,
let alone being able to unfold them,
re-fold them, neatly.
Don’t ask me to tell you where I’m going.
Don’t ask me to care less
to carry less
to let go of the muscle memory of migration
at the base of my neck.
I fear a future of
forever facing forward,
forehead forgetting that the passing
of time is told by the breaths
of mitochondria and the
birth of cells.
It seems implausible to believe that
I will find the sea
but I remember that these
walls too once had
I get restless before a snowfall
start to unfold wings
slip swiftly into skin
grow silver scales.
Call it wind,
call it magnetism, call it faith.
Call me sockeye, call me monarch,
call me snow goose, call me caribou.
Call me flighty, call me fickle, call me vagrant
but don’t ask me to stay.
I carry no allegiance
to territory or flag or creed
but the weight of wings
nothing but the muscle memory of migration.
I leave this place,
turn face to sea, to sky, to earth, to sun
* * *
These poems were inspired partly by stories about the way that monarch butterflies born in Canada and the United States migrate nearly 5,000 km to Mexico, and navigate by orienting themselves towards the sun, and how their migration spans 4 generations, as well as why their migration may be endangered.
It was also inspired by the artist-led campaign to reform American immigration policy, Migration is Beautiful, as well as reflections on the way migration is wrapped up in my personal and family histories.