Air hugs, no kissing. Knuckle
bumps, perhaps. Vitamin
C or zinc tablets. Keep your
drink to yourself; don't share.
Every day, the numbers go up. Your
face becomes a threat to others:
grocery shopping in an Italian town,
how do you become a target for fists,
insults? Yellow peril, plague-carrier, your
jaw broken, or a knife-stab in your ribs.
Keep to yourselves. Keep away from others.
Leave the ship at your own or other's risk.
Measles, malaria, cholera— gifts brought to
natives in the new world by Columbus.
Once a paradise, Pacific islands turn leprosaria.
Pity the unprotected, felled by terrible pathogens.
Quaranta giorni, the period a ship should isolate, being
replete with plague or other foul disease. On
self-seclusion in a lazaretto: first make a run for
toilet paper, tinned food, water, medication. The
ugly truth is that the poor always suffer more.
Vervain, laudanum, camphor, cloves, ambergris rose—
wadded into the beak of the plague doctor. Then as now,
xenophobia stalks the streets, pretending
yeast cultures don't thrive in mansions; pretending
zealotry isn't the more dangerous virus.
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.