Mother cleaned the spare room, changed
the sheets, put the best folded towels
on the bed, mopped the bathroom tiles
in preparation for father’s cousin
the congressman bringing his querida,
his Korean mistress, to our home.
He’d agreed we’d house her for the week
or until primo’s wife cooled off and stopped
accosting hotel managers in town or waiting
for a lobby ambush. Like an act in a soap
opera: the furtiveness, the nighttime visits
during which mother was curt with father
(not more, as she valued her sense
of good breeding)— inferring that
what went down with one
could very well be her fate.
Her friend the engineer’s wife caused
a scandal just weeks before: crazed,
running into the foam in her nightgown
with her husband’s gun and threatening
to kill herself unless he left
his whores. I learned querida
means dearest one, darling; but like
the tiny loop and flourish in the Q
it also meant the female you lusted
after outside the circle that signified
your marriage. This one had skin
like porcelain, a tiny waist, hair long
and dark held in place by one gold barette.
How old was she? Before she was taken away,
mother had softened, but only
toward her. They’d talk in lowered voices,
dunk cookies in their tea. She took the other
woman’s measure, promised she’d sew her
a proper dress: simple sheath, jewel neck-
line; no zippers, only hooks and eyes.
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.