On high stools at the island in the bar,
you and your co-workers, discussing
the indentation on one end of the polished
wood counter which makes it look
like the spot you might lay your face
at the massage parlor or chiropractor's.
On the far wall above the head of the rhetorician
who is talking about his tyrannical and
attention-starved cat, a mural of what looks to be
the Santo Niño, child Jesus in pink brocade
and gilt-edged crown; and all the candles
flickering at every table, La Virgen
de Guadalupe presiding over endless guac and
tortilla chips, no one remarking on the cheap
sticker and its campy rendition of the image with frilled
mandorla. Imagine her saying ¿No estoy yo aquí
que soy tu madre? then, just like that, in the middle of
winter, dropping twelve roses from within
the folds of her cloak. If only a miracle would
manifest in these dark days. Every morning
you turn on the car radio to hear someone trying
to keep from breaking down in tears, on the brink
of losing everything they'd saved and worked for
over a lifetime from the forced furloughs,
the government shutdown now nearly a month long.
Nothing for the mortgage, the car payment,
tuition for the child in school, money for medication.
Two restaurants in your neighborhood are closing
in the coming week, and you can't figure out why a boy
in your morning class can never keep his eyes
open from some recurring exhaustion. It doesn't seem
to matter that there are times you can't remember
the meaning of heuristic, or that you wake with achy
tingling in your knees. Yes, joy is still important.
How is your husband, his health, asks your colleague
who has volunteered to help you set up a WebEx meeting.
You think of the number of amber-colored vials on the dining
room shelf, multiple modalities for the alleviation
of pain; and the science that drove beams of gamma radiation
at a precise target: the trigeminal nerve at the base
of his brain, pressing too much on a vein. You barely
have time in the day anymore since he went
on the night shift; proverbial passing ships,
bobbing against each other for a while at harbor
before slipping off again into the wale of work.
Your other colleague with the beautiful cheekbones
says she also thinks a lot about time these days;
and faulty memory. How she regrets not keeping
a diary or journal, and now the evenings speed by
as if we watch them from inside an onrushing
train. And a moment will still, sometimes; and feel
as if the commingling of all moments, requited and un-.
Instead of lapsing into a bad nostalgia, you ask the ponytailed
server for a takeout order of tamales with sour cream and when
it comes, you say goodnight; you hold the styrofoam box smelling
faintly of humid corn to your chest and walk back out into
the evening; cold, clear, already hardening with frost.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) was recently appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-2022). She is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 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; she also teaches classes at The Muse Writers’ Center in Norfolk. 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.