At lunch in the Chinese restaurant: couples with salt-and-pepper hair (the women in modest pumps and tweedy jackets and the men just loosening their ties), babies in high chairs, teens in tunic tops not even teetering in their absurd stiletto heels. A veil of sesame oil in the air, the clatter of dim sum carts. The child says— I wonder what you’ll look like when you’re older? On the way here, we passed the Woodlawn Cemetery and I couldn’t remember if that was where the writer who was a diplomat in his other life, was buried. Many years ago I spoke with him a few times, over a crackly phone connection; me in graduate school, acorns pinging from the trees as autumn in the midwest made the branches ready for a long sheathing in ice. He must have been in that nursing home where he died. I did not know then about the daughters they said had left him there then disappeared, the nurses unable to trace them to any forwarding address. He told me he walked to the local library as often as he could, a yellow legal pad under his arm. In the latter part of his life, he scoured the shelves for poems, copied them out by hand. He complained he could not find anything by René Char. I think I might have sent him a book, translated poems found in one of the used bookstores up on Clark. le Poème pulvérisé? I can’t remember now. I knew about his hasty exit from Cambodia just before the fall, he and his wife with one suitcase each. The former dictator’s government never made up for his losses, those years of faithful service. I must repeat, I never really met him. He was a voice on the phone, a voice I imagined when I read his stories. Often I wonder if he ever thought this would be a place as good as any, in which to die.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for her manuscript Maps for Migrants and Ghosts, forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press in fall 2020. She 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 former US Poet Laureate 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.