Little Studies: 3 (Mule)

A mule is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey.

A female mule that has estrus cycles and thus, in theory, could carry a fetus, is called a “molly” or “molly mule,” though the term is sometimes used to refer to female mules in general. Pregnancy is rare, but can occasionally occur naturally as well as through embryo transfer.

A mule is also any kind of shoe or slipper into which the foot may willingly be eased, without need for stays or zippers or laces. It is easy to kick off a mule when one is tired of wearing it on the foot.

In Indonesia, in a jail cell, a Filipina maid awaits her execution tonight. She will be shot. She will face a firing squad of no less than twelve. So far no intervention has succeeded in staying the order for her death.

She is referred to as a mule in news reports. In some, she is called a dupe mule.

Is a mule that is duped more or less a dupe or more or less a mule?

But a mule is also someone that is made to carry or transport illegal drugs.

Her name is Mary Jane, and she is the mother of two children. In another news report her sister holds up a scarf that Mary Jane knitted and gave to her as a gift.

Why would a mule want to knit?

Why would she who once barely escaped rape at the hands of a former employer, want to be a mule?

What I want to know is, what happened to the woman who lured her, duped her into carrying an extra suitcase when she was put on a plane that was supposed to take her to her new job?

Where is she tonight, as Mary Jane waits in her cell and listens to the ticking of the hours?

I look at her photograph and I think: she does not have the face of a mule.

When I read of Java I used to think of puppets in shadow plays, their long slim fingers painted gold, their heads trembling beneath the weight of filigree, beneath the dulled light of a moon on strings.

But now in the town of Cilacap near Nusakambangan island, coffins have been hewn and made ready, each with a cloth, a shade of white.

I want to know: why white? why the shade of bathroom tile, why the color of the commode whose surfaces she must have scrubbed and bleached each week, only for others to defile?

As if the protocols could make the lie pristine.


Update on Mary Jane Veloso: last minute reprieve on her execution granted

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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