The report reads: "moderate dehydration
& malnutrition; hypoalbuminemia;
hypokalemia; degenerative osteoarthritis,
lumbar." Which means she'd gone
months without having enough to drink
or eat; not enough protein, only
rolls of bread she'd furtively stash
below the collar of her dress
in the thin, bowed cavity of her chest,
then take tiny bites from. This same
woman, whose idea of extravagance
was throwing a whole stick of butter
into the pasta sauce; buying two
pairs of shoes at once, or taking
her sweet time at the dressing table
while everyone else waited in the car.
And the people who lived with her
for more than three decades after
my father died: kin that fleeced and
deliberately took from her what's still
rightfully hers, draining the coffers.
She doesn't know they've occupied
her rooms, spirited away her marble
end-tables and who knows what other
bits of furniture and possessions.
It took her more than half
an hour to recognize who I was;
then, drifted in and out of small
lucidities followed by exclamations
and tears. I wrapped a woolen shawl
around her shoulders before I had
to leave again—I'm told even that
somehow disappeared. Now
she's in a home with others like her,
white hair blooming atop such slender
stalks. They wait for a nurse to feed
or bathe them, take them out into
the sunshine. You can see
something proud in her, still;
despite the broken record of speech.
She can hold her head in that old way
so her chin juts out, sharp
as in the days when time
had not yet pressed all of us
like creased flowers in its palm.
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.