(with a line from Louise Erdrich)
All the fables I recall end
with an illustrated moral: not so much truth, not
beauty nor patience, but more an
idea of choice. For instance, the youngest daughter
could choose to defy the father
who wants to give her to some beast of a man who has him
disturbingly in his thrall, and over
half the village as well. Or she could choose to
end the narrative early, refuse
the role of sacrifice. But the way these stories go,
fairest equals having the least
freedom to assert a difference in worldview.
Given three gates and the knowledge
that behind one lurks a lion waiting to tear you
heart from limb, and behind the second
a flaming sword: only one leads to the mythical
island where all that the heroine
has lost shall be restored. We should all be so lucky:
jinn in a hip pocket, an app
to scan terrain ahead in real time. After weeks of fire,
kangaroos praise the rain
that finally pours from the heavens. Elsewhere: pooled
lava gushes from the earth; sulfur
and ashes spew out of a volcano in a crater lake, one of
many in the ring of fire. Who'd
willingly choose disaster, stay behind while
neighbors flee to evacuation
shelters? By an act of God, we mean what's
out of the range of our control,
outside further capacity to choose. All my life I've tried to
play the parts that I've been given,
seen how to turn accidents into opportunities or salvage
quests gone awry. But you know?
The heart can only take so much
repetition without relief.
The heart wants to sometimes not have to choose, instead
surrender; to not pretend to know
all the answers, or where to find them;
to quietly admit there's only
so much it can do, despite the largeness of its desire,
unstinting hope, unlimited
ambition. I read about someone sitting under an apple tree,
vivid witness to fruit
taken past ripeness and falling toward rot in heaps,
wasting their sweetness.
And yet somehow not one was wasted, not even those
exempt from the maw assigned
to eat them whole, take them alive.
You try to be like the fruit: you give
as much as you can in leaf, in flower,
zest and bud, before you too are taken.
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.