Doesn't it feel as though you've been practicing
for this moment all your life? Like,
didn't your parents make sure every
part of the plant or animal
sacrificed for your use had some
practical application, down to the last
oily whisker and scraped
cavity of marrow bone? Weren't you told
to straighten your back and look
without cringing at the fish eyeball
swimming in soup?
Your grandmother crouched through the forest,
pregnant with your mother, as bombs
fell and sniper fire zinged through the slats of night.
Your grandfather walked, prodded by bayonets,
his arms behind his head. How many miles
before they were herded into a camp where they waited,
five men to a cot, for deliverance?
The only mantra they taught you was Be prepared.
Henceforth, even in the face of what no one could ever
know was coming, they added to their hidden stores
of rice in the cellar, built walls of canned
goods, deposited flour and sugar and salt
down the empty mouth of every plastic container.
Bootleggers of grim hope, they were always
tensing for the future while keeping one
eye open for an exit sign, a hidden trap-
door leading away from this moment backed against a wall.
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.