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Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration

We are pleased to learn about "Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration,” a historic effort by 25 U.S. poetry organizations throughout March to spark positive dialogues and inspire greater understanding of migration issues through poetry. Organizations are offering free publications and public events, and readers can learn more by visiting www.poets.org/academy-american-poets/poetry-coalition. Or, by following the hashtag #WeComeFromEverything. As part of this effort, the Academy of American Poets is publishing a week of poems beginning March 20 on Poets.org by poets who have unique insight into the migration experience, including this new poem by U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera:

María de la Luz Knows How to Walk
by Juan Felipe Herrera
she ambles toward El Norte she remembers as she steps
wasps & spiders webbed in between the corn in Fowler
her mamá Concha’s story the fire she fanned to clear 
the path through the thick burned stalks all this
she almost-touches the blue-berries in Skagit Washington
& the line of men wrapped as cocoons and dark as amber
flecked honey at the line the only store in Firebaugh where 
you can cash your check shirts twisted & whispered & upright
down in Illinois in Cobden you go through the back door
of Darden's bar to buy drinks for the foreman El Cuadrado
María’s coming home after returning to Atizapán de Zaragoza 
where she works at la Tortillería next to la Señora Muñóz
it is an abyss smoked & metal flat and deep with nixtamal
“Good pay in South Georgia” she says “I’ll work the
cucumbers” feet in water skin see-through peels & peels
off & off then on Saturday bussed to Walmart bussed back
to camp season after season the crossing higher alone
or with groups of three the coyote says “I am leaving you
here at the bottom of this mountain you Indians know how
to climb” she remembers Guadalupe Ríos say from the edge
of Santa María Corte in Nayarít “Nosotros los Peyoteros 
sabemos caminar We know how to walk” María de la Luz
with an address in her net-bag her son who was taken many 
years ago 1346 “D” St. San Diego will she recognize Juan
is the street still there who is he now who am I now who
will he remember you this ancient trail of grandmothers &
deportadas “I know how to walk” María de la Luz prays
as she ascends the black mountain as she moves her body
tiny as she listens to the sudden rush of things fall among 
thorns & hisses María de la Luz notices a band of light 
© 2017 Juan Felipe Herrera. Originally published in Poem-a-Day, www.poets.org. Distributed by the Academy of American Poets.
About This Poem
“With this poem I weave the stories I have heard on the road as U.S. poet laureate and the stories I have heard travelling as a poet since 1970, as well as those of my own family. It is important to awaken to the realities of human beings who undergo heroic and tragic journeys from Mexico and the Americas en route to El Norte as migrant workers in the face of deportation. They follow family trails established even before the ‘border’ was installed in the early twentieth century.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera
About Juan Felipe Herrera 
Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of “Notes on the Assemblage” (City Lights Publishers, 2015). He is the U.S. poet laureate and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.


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