Skies are the color of blue slate, waters the tint of a camphor jar when the fisherman pulls out his coldly gleaming catch. This is the moment that divides before and after: What is your greatest wish? We know that even as he takes out the barb and throws back the fish, the edge of the sky recedes and grows more distant. His wife will make him go back more than once to ask for a boon. The stucco on their walls is a flaked and dirty white; the floor, littered with poultry droppings, the smell of things that don’t fly very far. The story never says much about her, or why she can’t seem to keep a clean house, though it has only one room and a window overlooking the outhouse. Technically they don’t own the land, but it’s at the edge of town and so far no one has made any trouble. Who can blame her for wanting a little more room? She’s had her eye on the adjacent lot, wants to plant vegetables, fruit, and flowers, sell them in the market. Whereas the scope of his ambition has always fallen across that surface of the water where he can stand, knee-deep, no further— whatever doesn’t escape through the holes in the net, he gets to keep. He doesn’t question this arrangement, believing it builds character. The fish catches both of them by surprise. Or rather, not the fish, but the possibility that it could be something more than itself. Like anything that might be equated with fate, it either changes them forever, or fixes them even more firmly in place. Overhead, millions of tiny lights adrift in that inverted bowl.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for her manuscript Maps for Migrants and Ghosts, forthcoming from Southern Illinois University Press in fall 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. 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.