Umbra, Penumbra, Antumbra

Our science teachers told us to find and bring
old rolls of undeveloped film— then showed us

how to pull the strips out. They made a somehow
satisfyingly crisp sound as they cleared

the revolving sprockets. Each of us snipped
two squares from the reel, which we separated

with scissors and taped to cardboard windows
we then could hold before our eyes to shield them.

We’d go into the playground to witness how
the moon slid into position directly between

the earth and the sun. We were warned: the sky
would go dark even in broad daylight. The dogs

would howl, the roosters in their cages crow
in confusion. We were not to look directly

at the sun, or its concentrated rays could damage
our eyes. Another teacher said, if we filled a pail

or basin with water and set it on the ground,
we could look into it as into a mirror to see

this heavenly passage that would not come again
for maybe fifty years, or a hundred. We learned

the names for those cone-shaped shadows and the one
that superimposes its dark body upon an aura edged

with light: how it’s darkest at the center
where the source of light is completely occluded,

how the area released in passage shades off into
an almost or nearly dark. How in the old days,

the people beat their drums and gongs in a frenzy,
believing the god of light had been eaten by a beast.

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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