What did we know of the angel,
how it decided which of our houses
to mark with chalk, and which with
the blood of an animal that bleated
six times before being led to slaughter?
What did we know of angels in the first
place, when our mothers raised us to avert
our eyes as we passed beneath the trees
at dusk, when babaylan taught us to listen
for the breathing of kapres lighting
enormous cigars? If the angel marked us
safe, we knew it wasn't so much
because we were exceptionally good
or favored. Perhaps the animal bleated
three times instead of five or six.
Perhaps hot ashes from the kapre's cigar
fell into the well instead of on our
thatched roofs. And it doesn't matter
if you are the mayor's son or the black-
smith's daughter: the dark cloud gathering
at the foothills isn't a storm coming,
isn't a pestilence of locusts. It's just
ordinary smoke rumbling history's
reproach. It doesn't condone stasis
or equilibrium; it loves the sound of wind
stirred up by giant wings, the way it breaks
the cardinal points from a compass rose.
In response to Via Negativa: Improvisational.
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.