Campus Elegy

“If I cried out/ who would hear me up there/ among the angelic orders?” – Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies

We heard the news, we saw on video how
they sat in rows, arms linked, no chorus
sounding anguish from among their ranks.
Or pain, or anger— not that the formality
of silence cannot mean something seethes
beneath the bludgeoned front. Attack the head,
the ribs; pour acids down the throat and
scald the eyes. What civil liberties we take.
A student writes, They’re human too, they hurt
from all this fear.
Long days ahead, of vigil;
flushed nights spiked with sudden chill. All’s over-
cast. Phalanx of blue: faces that look, as they
close in, like neighbors’, brothers’, uncles’—
What you see, before the bodies fall to blows.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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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.

3 Replies to “Campus Elegy”

  1. This is just a terrific political poem, Luisa. The phrase Larry identifies is obviously a pivot, but everything that follows it feels crucial, too. I mean, who hasn’t experienced that tension between taking a stand as a fighter (nonviolent or otherwise) and wanting to continue treating one’s opponents like human beings deserving of compassion?

  2. I love this much needed and compassionate poem. The part that resonated with me was the realization by the students that these seemingly familiar neighborly figures were going to hurt them. That is a horrible feeling of betrayal. My first thought was of Bosnia, but so many wars are neighbor against neighbor . We could go straight back to our own civil war.
    Strange to be talking about war. Is this what it’s come to again?. Why all the hatred against college students? Is this misplaced class warfare or just the case of a few bullies given too much power? Are we doomed to repeat Kent State again?.
    First a link to the pain of pepper spray.

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