Registration for spring

Stepping out
into the hallway
at the end
of my class,
and a student
stops me to ask
could she have
a word, for next
week it is
registration
for spring;
and am I going
to be teaching other
classes in poetry—
And she is disappointed
when I tell her yes
but not at the under-
graduate level.
She was hoping
to take more poetry
having really
connected
this semester.
When I tell her
I am really glad,
she says she wants
to write her story,
then without
transition
or preamble
she is talking
about her only son
and how she
loves him very much,
and I know it must
be so because
her eyes light up
and her voice
changes; then,
okay, she
has to confess
she had him
when she was 12
and that’s why
she wants so much
to write this story
and all the amazing
things she has learned.
I don’t remember
much anymore what I
might have been
thinking about
or doing at that age
—probably picking
secretly at the scabs
on my legs from being
prone to every
imaginable food
allergy; or self-
conscious
about the way
I thought everyone
in my school must be
looking at me
in disgust; 12,
probably wishing
I had normal parents
who would let me bathe
or wash my hair
more than once
a week when I
had my period,
because they
were of a generation
that believed it
unhealthy for a girl
soiling the water
with her blood.
As if blood and water
couldn’t mix, or as if
hygiene was less
an issue than a taboo.
I wound up
marrying young, too;
though not as young
as 12. I blame this
in part on our lack
of communication
about anything
resembling
the intimate— how
instead of candid talk
about questions and
anxieties, I got a book
called On Becoming
a Woman
thrust
into my hands when I
was 10, the age when
I began menstruating.
It had a cover
depicting a smiling
bride dressed in white,
surrounded by a bevy
of bridesmaids,
in front of a cottage
and a garden with masses
of flowers; and any
mention of sex
and where babies come
from was written,
it seems, almost entirely
in euphemisms. Far cry
from something like
Our Bodies, Ourselves,
which my daughters
got to read in their
own time. I don’t
get a chance to say
any of this to my student,
who is rushing off to her
next class; and I
as well have to get
to a meeting. But I do
reiterate my encouragement
of her desire to do
something more
with her writing—
even manage to tell her
of a contest run by a journal
looking for narratives
of profound changes
in a woman’s life.
Then we are off,
and the week is soon
over. I say See you
in class next week
,
and Don’t forget
to vote.

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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