It is the year we have boarders, two college students from Thailand: long-legged and dusky Mu, pale and flat-chested Pom. For breakfast they like things like coconut jam on bread. One Saturday they’re showing my parents how to make a sweet-salty dip with shrimp paste for tart green mangos, and Thai iced tea. When they serve the drinks I watch the dense layer of sweetened milk make sinuous curls through the red-earth-colored liquid in tall beaded glasses. I know this milk is something that also goes into custards and flan, but you can spoon and eat it straight from the can with the red and white striped label. I don’t know why my father keeps mentioning this milk— “Condolence, my condolences,” he says into the phone— when a friend calls to say his mother has died. Perhaps this sweetness is a cure for sorrow. Perhaps its creamy thick ribbons wrap the throat and tongue in a cocoon to make them impervious to the dark salt of tears.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) was recently appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-2022). She is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 2020). She 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 former US Poet Laureate 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; she also teaches classes at The Muse Writers’ Center in Norfolk. 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.