Modified CDC Villanelle

A woman throws up in a crowded bus.
Within minutes, the men in hazmat suits descend.
Fear of contagion panics escalations of distress.

A mother claps a hand upon a baby’s mouth; breathless
she’s crushed by bodies in the street, their frenzied blend
caused by a woman throwing up in a crowded bus.

Meanwhile in Texas, one recovered nurse
gives statements to the press. Daily unpinned,
fear of contagion panics escalations of distress.

I listen on the radio for reports on body counts.
My daughter asks how disease transfers, blood to blood—
What danger is posed by throwing up in a crowded bus?

A radio report recreates conditions— let’s say, a virus
lurking in a monkey’s blood: let’s say the hunter nicked
his hand. Days later: swollen glands, nausea; night sweats.

Cities teem with airports, rivers, bridges. How to adjust
the portals and vents? No current wisdom provides defense.
Watch as a woman throws up in a crowded bus.
Watch the fear of contagion escalate beyond distress.


In response to Via Negativa: Outbreak.

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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