About this poet

Joseph O. Legaspi was born in the Philippines, where he lived before immigrating to Los Angeles with his family at age twelve. He received a BA from Loyola Marymount University and an MFA from New York University’s Creative Writing Program. Legaspi is the author of the collection Threshold (CavanKerry Press, 2017) and Imago (CavanKerry Press, 2007), winner of a Global Filipino Literary Award. He is the recipient of a 2001 poetry fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and in 2004 he cofounded Kundiman, a nonprofit organization serving Asian American poetry. He works at Columbia University, teaches at New York University and Fordham University, and lives with his husband in Queens, New York.

Amphibians

Amphibians live in both.

Immigrants leave their land,
hardening in the sea.

Out of water.

In Greek, amphibian means
“on both sides of life.”

Terra and aqua.  Shoreline.
In fresh water:

amphibians lay
shell-less eggs;
immigrants give birth
to Americans.

Tadpoles, polliwogs
metamorphose: gills
in early stages.  On land,

amphibians develop lungs.
Immigrants develop lungs.

Through damp skin
amphibians oxygenate.

Immigrants toil
and sleep breathlessly.

Skin forms glands. 
Eyes form eyelids.

Amphibians seek land; immigrants, other lands.

Their colors brighten, camouflage.

They’ve been known to fall
out of the sky.

Fully at home in the rain.

Copyright © 2014 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.

Copyright © 2014 by Joseph O. Legaspi. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.