Poetry & Migration #2: Mai Der Vang

Poetry & Migration

Poetry & Migration #2: Mai Der Vang

Mai Der Vang — 03/16/2017

As part of "Because We Come From Everything: Poetry & Migration," the first formalized programming of the Poetry Coalition, Milkweed Editions, Coffee House Press, Graywolf Press, and Birds, LLC have partnered to curate a selection of poems on the theme of migration. A new poem will be distributed each Thursday in March and April, online and in Pocket Poem size at several Minneapolis and St. Paul independent bookstores.
Learn more and read all poems in the series»


Spirit, when I flee this jungle, you must too.
I will take our silver bars, necklace dowry, and the kettle
forged from metal scraps just after the last monsoon.

Among the foliage, we must be ready to see
the half-decayed. You must not run off no matter how much
flesh you smell.

Nor should you wander to chase an old mate.

Spirit, we are in this with each other the way the night geese
in migration need the stars.

When I make the crossing, you must not be taken no matter what
the current gives. When we reach the camp,

there will be thousands like us.
If I make it onto the plane, you must follow me to the roads
and waiting pastures of America.

We will not ride the water today on the shoulders of buffalo
as we used to many years ago, nor will we forage
for the sweetest mangoes.

I am refugee. You are too. Cry, but do not weep.

We walk out the door.


Join the conversation and share your favorite poems about migration in the comments below and on social media by using #WeComeFromEverything. 


“Transmigration,” from Afterland. Copyright © 2017 by Mai Der Vang. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota. graywolfpress.org

Mai Der Vang

Mai Der Vang is the author of Afterland (Graywolf Press, 2017). She is an editorial member of the Hmong American Writers’ Circle and coeditor of How Do I Begin: A Hmong American Literary Anthology. Her essays have appeared in The New York TimesSan Francisco Chronicle, and The Washington Post.