We don’t have a language brave enough to address these things: hot breath inches away from the face, the names that shift the indeterminate pestilence of hate through streets and school halls, the taunts that masquerade as jokes, the protocol in place for rolling with, moving on, getting over it—

We don’t have a language to talk about the color of those parts underneath the clothes, underneath the skin; the parts themselves, the sound those parts make as they congeal in a mouth where the hurt of teeth is fresh memory from a fist—

We don’t have the words to make sense of any contradiction of parts— black hair, green pupils, slanted eyes— resulting in a chase from the bar and out through darkened streets, the baseball bat swinging and swinging to make repeated contact with alien skin—

We don’t have a language for the silence that resounds afterward where there should be response, the silence a pall in those marbled rooms where justice has not been served; the silence hovering like a mouth above every fresh-made grave, the weird silence in the streets though there are people on the sidewalks when a band of motorcycle riders rushes a van to beat its occupants, just because—

And we don’t have a language for that great, mad noise which should burgeon high over the walls like that noise made by Godzilla or by Godzilla’s mother, whose brain and limbs I’m sure were also fried when the bombs fell over the South Pacific— She may not be in the movie but I tell you she exists somewhere, bellowing the primitive syllable of her pain, our pain, for the lesion delivered to one is delivered to all—

And we don’t have the adequate language for the different ways we’re daily taken hostage, dangled by the feet over the abyss as penny puppet show, as entertainment for the black-tie crowd—

Which is why it is so hard to stumble home and tell ourselves, tell our children, Love is all we need, for we cannot part our pain from all the great love bombed out of our hearts—

And we don’t have enough reserves of language for that either, we don’t know where and how to start to tell each other what we must, which is Enough, enough, enough, enough, enough—


In response to Via Negativa: Materialist.

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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 (forthcoming, 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, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.


  1. Trying to. What I mean of course in such a poem, is that the language that we currently have/use, seems inadequate in its ability to directly address racism, misogyny, and a host of other unresolved historical issues that persist— Instead we have the absurdities of p.c.-speak, etc.


  2. Plus, people don’t want to talk about these things. They’re made uncomfortable. Or they want to look away and pretend they don’t exist.


    1. Well, I think that’s the main thing, isn’t it? It’s such mental contortions that make dishonest language seem necessary in the first place. It’s not enough to put fingers in one’s ears; one also has to say LALALALALA.


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