"Mama, mama namamangka,
Pasakayin yaring bata;
Pagdating sa Maynila,
Ipagpalit sa manika."
["Mister, Mister boatman,
Give the child a ride;
When you get to Manila,
Trade her in for a doll."]
~ From "Sitsiritsit, Alibangbang"
("Sitsiritsit, Butterfly;" Filipino folk song)
Green scarab beetle, chafer beetle,
bearer of the soul's smallest particles
encased in dung: at night I hear you
scrabbling through the roots of cane
and corn, through clumps of rice
seeded like moist asterisks across
the fields. The men and women
who labor in the sun have so many
mouths to feed. In their village,
they trade grain for fish and molasses,
batteries for the radio which brings
news of gunfire in the hills, storms
bearing down like a threshing wheel
on all they've done. Horse and water
buffalo wear their tethers,
sometimes standing still, sometimes
drawing the same circles in the dust.
For anyone who says children
are worth whatever sacrifice the gods
might demand, another will say life
is cheap: as easily made as taken.
The smallest child can push a wooden
cart across the city, combing through
trash for scraps to sell.
The smallest child carries a toddler
on her hip: they weave through evening
traffic with outstretched palms.
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.