The Tuesday poem: Migratory Birds, by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

MIGRATORY BIRDS by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

you were born
to gypsies
though you didn’t
want to be
every spring
when orange blossom’s
perfume
filled the air
your world was packed
into a few bundles
then your
family was off
living in tents
trailers
dirt floor shacks

you were born
to nomads
though you didn’t
want to be
longed to live
with the
settled and the straight
work in the
five-and-dime
go to school
play tennis
and every time
you found a friend
it was time to go
another town
another round
in a world
that made you
dizzy

you were born
to migrants
though you didn’t
want to be
from Texas to Illinois
living in a blur
out a car window
roads endless
as fields of crops
to be picked by the piece
never making enough
to eat
let alone for the trip back
home
pleading for the
traveling to stop
words in the wind
wooshing by ears
of the gypsy king

you were born
to wanderers
though you didn’t
want to be
when you got
the chance
you planted
yourself
deep
in concrete
and steel
to make sure
you or your
offspring
wouldn’t
branch out
too far
from home
you were
settled
for
ever

I was born
to a life of never change
though I didn’t
want to be
same familiar streets
same people
same stories
year after year
until one sweltering
Chicago summer night
the moon full
color of sun
reflecting off
fields of green
and the sweet scent
of lilacs from
our backyard
helped me sprout wings
so I could fly away.

I encountered this poem – and the poet – completely by chance, leafing through an anthology of Chicana writing from the University of Arizona Press while waiting in line for the photocopier in the Key West Public Library. I was putting together an anthology of poetry for young women (“She’s All That!” – there are details about it in the poetry section of ‘Books’ on my website ) and as soon as I read Odilia’s poem I realised it was perfect for the collection. I love the sense of both physical and metaphysical travel she conveys, and the way she has paced and patterned the generational story she tells.

Tracking Odilia Galván Rodríguez down for the necessary permission to use her poem on today’s blog took a lot more persistence than finding the poem ever did – Odilia turns out to be a woman of many parts: poet, activist, traveller and speaker are just some of her skills. But I did eventually hear from her, and she was pleased to give permission to use her poem. I’m delighted to share it with all the Tuesday Poem blog readers, as well as anyone who finds it on my own blog.

7 Responses to “The Tuesday poem: Migratory Birds, by Odilia Galván Rodríguez”

  1. Kathleen Jones Says:

    Lovely poem Belinda – quite a find!

  2. admin Says:

    So glad you like it, Kathleen.

  3. Tim Jones Says:

    I like this poem a lot – thanks for giving us the chance to read it.

  4. Odilia Galvan Rodriguez Says:

    Hi Belinda,

    Thanks so much for posting my poem and for all your kind words about the piece. I am not usually that difficult to find though sometimes when I am traveling in Cuba I don’t update my blogs or check my e-mail regularly because it is a more difficult proposition while I am there. Sorry about that.

    I used to post quite a bit of my new writing on myspace but now I primarily post on my blog and on facebook. Anyone wishing to read the latest they can check there.

    Again thank you, and let’s keep in touch!

    All the best,

    Odilia

    my facebook account: http://www.facebook.com/apaxicana

  5. admin Says:

    Odilia, how lovely to hear from you in a comment! Thank you very much for making time to check out the blog – I’ll look at your facebook page to enjoy more of your work. Belinda

  6. Regan James Says:

    I had to pick 5 good poems and write an analysis on each of them (for homework) and I chose this one, leafing through ‘she’s all that’.
    It’s a brilliant poem!

  7. admin Says:

    so glad you liked it!

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