The nuns come down our rows for what
they call "inspection"— they start
at the nape after pulling our uniform
collars back to check for grime; then
they peer into the waxy dusk of each
dark child's ear. We can even hear
their breathing: pale mosquitoes
clothed in voluminous gray habits,
feet in rubber-soled work shoes.
Then the girls are made
to stand; they'll check if skirt
lengths meet the fingertip test. Last,
each of us has to lay both hands
on the desk, fingers splayed out
like nervous starfish before a piano
recital. This is when they wield
the ruler most: for dirt under
the fingernails, for torn cuticles;
for the whites at the tips mown
across in haphazard patterns by teeth
sometime in the night during sleep.
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.