Only by grace do we still labor.
We eat in the park from paper plates
& lick the yellow icing from too-
sweet bakery cupcakes; & peel the meat
from the bone with sticky, clumsy
fingers. Only by effort do we hammer
planks pried loose by the heat
back into the ribs that have tightened
on the deck. Only by breathing do we keep
track of time: what's past & what looms
like the shadow of an animal, its howl
an echo we hear hunting in the small
hours of night. We should have been torn
to pieces long ago in the maw of this
machine; or turned on a spit & lanced
in the side. But we lie in the sun,
made sleepy by the effort to finish some
task. We pick flowers to lay on the tombs
of our dead. We write or read to keep back tears
or questions. We listen for what doesn't come.
In response to Via Negativa: Blues.
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.