Privilege

We did not know we were the gold,
but passage was not ours
for the asking.

But having arrived at the threshold
we were instructed to wait
patiently for inspection.

Our mothers said,
Take care to wash under your fingernails.
Whatever mud might have stained your shoes,
a clean collar might save.

Out fathers said,
Be guarded with your joy, even the ordinary
mirth inspired by birds singing.
In these parts, a whistle is an alarm.

We watched
the easy lope of others
as they linked arms and passed
unhindered through doors.

When they crossed the street,
they were unhurried as swans.
The sun glanced off their gleaming
heads and bodies.
It did not seem to matter
what urgencies there might be in the world.

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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