Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Safe Passage

Caught in a windstorm over Chicago,
dodge the buildings painted with

our reflections. We circle endlessly,
waiting to be cleared for landing.

I clasp my hands and imagine
this might kill me. I’m waiting

to make my pilgrimage,
but it is never the right time.

In this heat, the birds are mistiming
their migrations. Leaving too early

or too late. The old nesting places,
death traps; the Gobi Desert, with its

tall transmission towers, high voltage
wires, industrial smog and gray

corpses of birds or airplanes,
indistinguishable from the sand.

The Beijing Spring. From the north, dust storms
shudder into the city, haloing everything. They herald
the flowering crabapples, plum blossoms and peach orchards.

My father, clutching an unopened bag of sunflower seeds,
the old capital disappearing beneath him, suddenly aware
that in both lands, he would always be a stranger.

My nai nai, the cancer migrating—it took me years to find her
body again. And when I did, the wound of her departure
was sutured, bound to leave its scar.

The city slipping away outside the car window,
becoming skyline, then horizon, I would one day
understand—all our journeys are perilous until the last one.

We are all bound to our migrations. I’ve stopped

keeping track of the marks they leave on my body.

Startled birds mottle the light coming through my blinds.

They are born knowing which way to take wing.

I am born crawling on my knees towards safety.

Sat upright in the aisle seat, eyes half-lidded,

I’m praying for a good season, for safe passage,

and when this plane lands

I’ll arrive where I’m meant to be.  

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