Did you know hunger in your past?
When we had nothing else
just after the war, we could find rice grains
or potatoes in a field after the farmers were done
with harvest. At night, the furrows filled
with frogs' voices. They called and we answered;
we went toward them in moonlight
with our shirt hems stretched open.
Did you go to school?
Grandfather hired a man to work for him
on his garden. He was asked to carry me on his back
and wade across the river to the schoolhouse.
I wrapped my arms around his neck; his arms
held the backs of my calves. Once, not wanting
to leave, I threw myself on the floor
and wailed. He picked me up and started to walk.
Oily water thrashed around his ankles. I bit
the top of his ear. He never let go.
When did your fortune change?
The neighbor's daughter used to be
a teller at the bank. Now she is a general's wife
and is learning ballroom dancing. The man
who owned a dry goods store sold his business
after his only son drowned on a holiday
by the sea. It seems just yesterday I sat
on a platform, fists balled, feet
barely touching the floor,
as the auctioneer took bids.
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.