The Summer of the Angel of Death

It started out simply, a game
of little questions as she ironed
a stack of laundry in the afternoons

while I colored pictures at the table
and rain drew circles on the windows—
What would happen if you went to school

and discovered you’d left your lunch
and had no money in your pocket?
What would you do if you came home

and the doors were locked, and no
one was here?
I don’t remember when
the hypothetical problems became

more difficult to ponder, or if my mother,
pausing in the rhythm of her labors,
considered the metaphysics of these

further tests. Next, she asked questions
that seemed to be about other persons,
say, the neighbors next door: What

do you think would happen if one day,
you woke up to find your parents
had died?
I’m sure it was only

to prepare me for the difficult
uncertainties of life, to begin
to teach my mind to cultivate

the detachment which comes
of acknowledging what it can’t
ever control. I can’t remember

if my dreams were suddenly
clouded with locusts and plagues,
if blood bubbled upon the waters;

or if I ever saw in them the angel
of death waving a sprig of rosemary,
walking on the grass and passing

beneath the trees which trembled
slightly, even those whose leaves
were toughened by a long summer.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Series Navigation← Bearing FireVeneer →

Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (Utah State University Press, 2014 May Swenson Prize), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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