In Malcolm Square, we emerged after the theatre’s last
full show into the flashing blue lights and blare
of a police squad car. Father had called in
an almost missing persons report— My recently retired
schoolteacher aunt, visiting from out of town, taking
to heart the advice she’d read in a magazine about
the importance of keeping busy every waking moment
so as to prevent one’s faculties from deteriorating, decided
she and I would go out and try to watch as many movies
as we could in one day. I felt like her accomplice in crime;
her sidekick, all grown up like Bess or George to Nancy
Drew in those dog-eared library mysteries I loved to read
after school. There’s one where they find what look like bones
inside a piece of Chinese pottery, or an ideogram for Help!
They follow a trail of clues to an abandoned farmhouse—
Who knew there was a family held in there, maybe
without papers; “illegals” forced to forge rare blue-
and-white designs on vases and china that would be sold
to unsuspecting collectors? People are always saying things
like “It was right under your nose” or “In the plain
light of day.” I want to know, though, why father thought
we’d gone missing; if he thought we’d skipped town.
What exactly went through his mind that he had to call
the police? When they shone a flashlight at my aunt’s
face and mine and said Excuse me Ma’am, are you
the sister of Attorney Aguilar, and is that girl his
daughter? I wish she’d said something like No,
I’m Princess Urduja and this is my lady-in-waiting
and the entertainment in this town is terrible! They went
into the theatre lobby to make a phone call (this was
in the days before mobile devices), then came out
clearly suppressing their laughter. One of them had
a nose like a misshapen carrot, and the other had
a face as porous as a dry pomelo. If there were
Instagram or Snapchat then, I might’ve taken a photo
for my feed, to caption LOL busted! But it was the sixties;
the world seemed very different then, not like something
out of “Law & Order, SVU” where everyone could be a rapist
or pimp or serial killer, whether or not they’re related
to you. But come to think of it, evil isn’t original to our
time; what am I thinking? When I was in first grade,
a classmate’s mother had gone missing; a few
days later, they found her body hacked to pieces:
stuffed into a cardboard box, then shoved under a bed.
I heard the story from my parents: something about
a business partner, a debt, an attempt to collect.
My aunt refused the offer of a ride from the cops.
She hailed a cab, talking all the way home about John
Wayne in “The Green Berets” which we’d seen at noon;
and about Paul and his friends in “All Quiet on the Western
Front,” who knew nothing of life except what they’d given
of it to war. Perhaps, she was thinking Can’t a grown woman,
newly widowed, use up what remains of her life however
she sees fit? At the door, my father, waiting, said her name:
Sofia! Turning to me she smiled and said, Go to bed, it’s late.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (website) 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 was appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 2020-22, and in 2021 received 1 of 23 Poet Laureate Fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Mellon Foundation. 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.