Where forests fill in

as overgrowth and cover, some land
must have had to pay: villages razed

to the ground by war or conquest,
reduced to ciphers that won’t show
up on maps, much less in history

books— What persists is
what hasn’t been killed off yet
by famine, epidemic, or blight:

maize, perhaps; or the potato,
proliferating in more than a hundred
varieties underground.

And that myth of the forest primeval,
that paradise drenched in sun,
free of disease, with no hint

of even a little ice age
looming on the horizon? Stories
we’ve told ourselves to make it easier

to go to bed at night, to cull
from the pod the cotton used to fill
bales, pillows, eiderdowns; to justify

boat-loads of bodies forced
from some other shore—
Bargained for, numbered,

sold; tempered like tools
and set to work, indentured
in the ancient fields.


In response to Via Negativa: By-Catch.

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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