#181 MIGRATION by Mina Yamashita

Five cranes crossed overhead, a good omen—a promise,
if you believe the legends of my ancestors.

They glide toward the Bosque del Apache,
their home and shelter in this desert place.
They go to sleep ere daylight slips beneath the cedar breaks.

Our intersect is but a lover’s tryst—a coming home to roost.

My forebears asked for the good fortune brought by cranes,
made their image into paper blessings—
prayers of offering to ancient shrines.

I live in the shadow of Los Alamos,
cradle of a people’s darkest nightmare,
origin of all life, torn asunder.

While blackened gardens lay in ashy silence,
I learned to pledge allegiance, and ignore
the havoc wrought by others on a distant shore.

A score of years before I learned my parents
had been caged like birds.
They didn’t tell that story, kept it close.

And now, I am a captive of New Mexico,
in love with its strange history and wild land,
in love with its red mountains, and its nesting birds.

Cranes will leave their nest if frightened in their vigil,
will not sanctify that ground again.
But humankind always looks back, never quite forgets.

We call on many places claiming birthright.
I make my homestead here with these great birds for neighbors,
a home for generations, a gift—some may call fortune.

I call it fortitude.

Award-winning graphic designer for 50+ years, Mina first studied printmaking and typography at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. In 2009, after 9 years as a senior book designer at UNM Press, wrote “Mina’s Dish” for Albuquerque’s Alibi for 18 months. She is now engaged in freelance writing, design, and illustration.


6 thoughts on “#181 MIGRATION by Mina Yamashita

  1. Beautiful, Mina. A New Mexico poet friend sent the poem to me; she lives in Las Cruces, and my daughter and her family live in Bernalillo. I live in Fairbanks, Alaska, where sandhill cranes also migrate through every year, spending weeks of Spring and Fall. (I think they sometimes continue on to Siberia, where our town has a Sister City, Yakutsk, and residents in these two places have become friends and visited back and forth.) Like you, I love the cranes. When I see them flying overhead or hear them making their haunting call, I call out: “Say hello to my grandkids.” (Four much-loved grandchildren, ages 12 to 19. Thought you’d enjoy hearing all this.) Thanks for writing and sharing such a wonderful poem.

    1. Hi, Jean,
      Thank you for your comments! The cranes are well traveled. Your family in Bernalillo must see them often in the fields in the North Valley. They’re impressive birds. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem.
      Best wishes,

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