The immigrant translates

in her mind the words for custom
and care. She needs to tell the surly

landlord about the ill-fitting windows
that let in too much winter air, the hook
and eye fasteners that are loose, her fear

that roof rats have made their way
into the dark back hallway. It is
her custom to choose words with care,

but now she must find her way
more slowly. There are words in this
new tongue that continue to surprise her

as she walks to the train station
and back, that catch like little banners
on the wind, or sharper— before flying

away from what mouthed them. Some
are translucent as milk she pours
into the cracked blue ceramic dish

of the soft gray cat belonging to
the wheelchair-bound woman she
works for. Some are dark and reek

of blood or sour piss and peppers,
which her employer confirms are the same
peppers which go into pepper spray,

a small canister of which she presses
into her hand one afternoon saying You aim
this nozzle right in the face of anyone

who ever bothers you in the street. You run
like crazy, you shout Help and Fire but you
also make sure that there are witnesses.


In response to Via Negativa: Slight difference.

Posted in

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 (forthcoming, 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, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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