The day we left was marked 
by nothing but gauzy light.
              Everyone slept facing the wall; we could not bear

anything but dust bunnies, floors, and hidden diets
              of unswept pencil shavings. The truth is that we were 
not ready to leave even if immigration shut

              their eyes to unsee our faces. The truth is, the night 
before our flight was reminiscent of Gethsemane—
              divine blood replaced by our own shivering teeth. Today, I awoke

remembering our apartment’s tired face
              still weeping at the sight of empty rooms.
My father was determined to leave this land

               clean, so we’d scrubbed every wall with lemon-scented 
ammonia. The truth is, the apartment smelled like spring
               in the bright, polished hall leading to my third-grade classroom

where I watched the movie about the massacre
               of monarch butterflies killed by a harsh winter.
I thought I could worry about nothing but

               the frost, or how those monarchs fell from trees like tears 
or spit from the movie’s aerial view. I thought I could
               worry only about leaving the school library armed

with books and stickers, not how much
               longer we could stay. This is the price we paid: 
our startled childhoods awoke suddenly, hearing

               the vacuum next door before we suffocated 
under clean cotton sheets tasting nothing
               like America. O land of the free, O home of the brave, that day

I resolved to leave with a head unbowed and defiant, but failed:
               I could not say goodbye without remembering those quiet eyes looking away,
or those monarchs’ faint wings buried under snow. The day we left,

               the sunlight spooled into more overweight carry-ons.
The truth is, the smell of lemon-scented ammonia 
               clings to my poetry long after we left.

                O God—
I could freeze in this light.

Yvanna Vien Tica is a Filipina writer with a hearing impairment who grew up in Manila and a suburb near Chicago. A high school senior, her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Verse Daily, Poet Lore, and Salt Hill, among others, and has been performed virtually in a COP26 event. She reads for Muzzle Magazine and tweets @yvannavien. In her spare time, she can be found thanking God for another day.