Poem of the Week | February 04, 2019

This week we present “Swarm Migration” a new poem by Luisa A. Igloria.

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. Former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey selected her chapbook What is Left of Wings, I Ask as the 2018 recipient of the Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Poetry Chapbook award. Other works include The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), and 12 other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. Her website is: www.luisaigloria.com

Swarm Migration

So many squares
cut away from darkness,
untethered from light,

lighter than any wish
that cast us adrift—
Massed where we are,

we form new continents:
room upon room upon room
in tenements that wobble

under the pinned weight
of our labor. From on high,
little squares of laundry

strung on clotheslines
on the balcony. We are
so slight: an army of ants,

echo of some fusillade
still falling over the Pacific.
Flight pattern of starlings:

before or after sleep,
a million eyelash marks
trembling over the desert.

Author’s Note:


Not long ago, my 3 older daughters and I were reconnected through social media with Nora, who used to be their nanny for a brief period when they were growing up and we still lived with my parents in the Philippines. After she left our home, we found out that she’d gone to Hong Kong to seek employment as a maid, like many Filipinos who’ve become OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers). I wrote “Swarm Migration” after reading recent stories in the news and seeing pictures by Filipina street/documentary photographer and former migrant domestic worker Xyza Cruz Bacani, depicting the plight of OFWs abroad. The conditions of labor and the painful experiences of forced exile and separation from loved ones (Filipino migrant workers are all over the world) come out of the Philippines’ complex histories of colonization. The high rate of labor migration is exacerbated by widespread poverty and unemployment. We were glad to find out that Nora’s current employers have been good to her; we see from pictures on social media that her sisters have been able to visit her in Hong Kong, and that she herself has been able to make visits home.