At Mr. Shawarma, the line is long
on a Friday at mid-afternoon. Navy
dudes are here in uniform, sweating
in their eight-point caps & rough
out boots; moms fresh from hot
yoga next door, their babies
in strollers & toddlers running-
screaming around tables in pastel
Crocs. A veil of fragrant cumin,
garlic, coriander, parsley & scallions
rises from vats of oil behind the counter,
where line cooks are frying up fresh
batches of crusty chickpea balls—
street food from countries in the Middle
East, where America has sent military
troops since at least the early 1900s.
I was still in Baguio at the start of
Operation Desert Storm; my friends
said This is it, this is the end,
as we joined hordes panic-buying
at grocery stores. Stockpiling food,
more than oil or fuel, is always
the first thing on people's minds
in war or catastrophe.
On the radio, we heard songs
making bad puns of Saddam Hussein's
name, & remembered gossip about how
he took a giggling Imelda Marcos
on a helicopter trip to visit the ruins
of Babylon. Everyone who talks about
"the enemy" always has some kind of secret
fascination with them. At this kebab place,
how many people gorging on pita bread
with hummus & lemon oil or large, stuffed
gyros will hiss at women wearing hijabs, &
call everyone named Ibrahim a terrorist?
How is it so hard to eat a small, tasty thing
& think with kindness of those who made it
possible for us to eat such food?
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.