After recess we sat in rows under dim light,
bent over desks, scratching loops across
"Coupon Bond"--what we called unlined paper,
drawing paper, printer paper. Pink
eraser-capped pencils were Mongol No. 2.
Following the letters drawn on the blackboard:
G with its upward sweep into one tiny ear then another,
H like two twigs tied with an artful loop of twine.
I still remember the smell of hallways and bathrooms
just scrubbed with dirty water and Pine-Sol;
kelp-like strands of vague homeroom projects
lined up on the windowsills to dry,
macramé braids wilting on the counter. But I have
no nostalgia for the ways in which
only the beautiful ones among us got gold stars, got
picked "star dancer" or president. The
quiet ones, invariably forgotten, were those
reading pocketbooks under their desks,
slipping jokes and puns from hand to hand.
Telling of this time from the future, they
understand everything was practice for finding
value in the overlooked. For instance, unorthodox
wainscoting versus plain seats of iron and wood,
xyloid but without scrolls or flourishes. Or
yarrow nodding in thin grass by the trash bins; flies
zapping, heady from the smell of hidden sugars.
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.