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A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Jeffrey Woodward

Before the Monarchs

Even before the monarchs return, I see the first of the other migrants every year, the agricultural laborers and their families who somehow make it even this far north from Mexico, here to the Great Lakes region, to work the orchards and the fields. The families are often large and extended. They relocate frequently, pulled now this way, now that, by the seasonal rotation of crops and by the availability of work—spring, summer and fall. Occasionally, I meet them professionally as part of my employment in a social service agency. The fathers— dark from exposure to the sun, strong but unassuming. The mothers—smiling broadly and doting upon their children who, in their turn, remind me of nothing so much as those delightfully colorful and delicate monarchs—flitting here, flitting there, settling only briefly upon a chosen flower.

"Bonita, Mija," I exclaim to a pretty but shy little wisp of a four year old girl who hides behind her mother's skirt. "El niño es mucho grande," I say with great exaggeration of her littler brother who smiles proudly.

Other times, in leisurely drives through the country, I see the families, again: the mothers and fathers bent to their rigorous piece-work, the larger children sweating, also, to supplement the family income and the littlest ones always nearby, caught up like the monarchs in a soothing breeze, caught up in the boundless flights of a child's game and a child's imagination.

Will they settle in time, these delicate butterfly-like children, and escape the deprivations their parents are exposed to? They could be the children of any land and of any tongue—curious, playful, and innocently mischievous.

the migrant has come
by a vast tomato field
to the burning sun