Terms of Engagement

Can you be stunningly inventive,
linguistically eclectic, unflinchingly brave

but still grounded in the necessary and sustaining?

The reflecting pool surrounded by the beautiful
well-manicured lawn is flanked by the verticality
of cypress trees and liveried servants.

Evenings when the sky is clear and delicate
as a flute of blown glass, voices carry
through the air. Tonight, over the barely

audible hum of the electric fence,
someone is reading a poem threaded with bodies
and explosions, the words our shared

humanity snaking through like a dark skin,
like a cloudy vapor, like a distant glacier
unsheared, melting soon into the sea.


In response to Via Negativa: Grave.

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.

2 Replies to “Terms of Engagement”

  1. How far have we come
    from the shared rib,
    the scuffed knees and the frayed mats,
    the light of a thousand lanterns?
    So far that in a woman’s face as she weeps
    or a man’s body used as a shield over others
    we don’t recognize our own?
    So far that when a child washes up dead on a shore
    we ask each other whose he was?

    Thank you for the wonderful poem, Luisa. I am gripped by the image, “a poem threaded with bodies”.

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