A fisherman checks his nets thirty miles
from Mischief Reef. He doesn't know
if he should wait or head out into the lagoon,
bluegreen basin threaded in the noonday sun
by Chinese vessels. Surveillance drones fly
above large, man-made islands for aerial
pictures: runways and hangars on Fiery Cross,
a communications tower on Burgos Reef.
But where are the lines of dashed and broken green?
Can you trust them to name territory? Whereas
I love the look of the Philippines' oldest map
from 1628, an inscription at top right reading
Insulæ Indiæ Orientalis, the hems of islands
engraved on copperplates. And inside each,
thick calligraphies of names. Here, the mark
of trade routes and there, an island in the shape
of the shield that native warriors used, defending
their land. How one footfall from Bathala made
cracks in the earth that swallowed foreign
invaders; how a covey of birds rose flag-
like against the sky, though there
was no one there to document their cry.
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.