Later that morning, after borrowing the neighbor's ladder to pluck an errant plant growing in a corner of the roof's front gutter— I decide to also clear the weeds tangling the mouth of the downspout. My other neighbor across the street uses the word "volunteer" when she's talking about plants that show up in her tidy garden as if from nowhere. A stand of curling fern, for instance— which she didn't put in the soil herself. Or wildflowers she kept because they were pretty, and closer to the sidewalk's edge. I'm tempted to ask if these plants know what they're volunteering for: you know, like many citizens in the community who've signed up to be poll workers, even if most of them are over the age of 60 and understand they're in a group more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Young people too, properly masked, armed with clipboards and flyers, going door to door, reminding people how important it is to register and vote in the coming elections. And the volunteers stocking community food pantries, the school children fanning out across public parks and beaches to collect trash thoughtlessly tossed by others in the bushes or on the trails— This is where, often, someone finds small animals: turtles, possums, seagulls, herons, ducks, their heads caught in plastic six-pack rings, legs wound in plastic twine. As for migratory birds that have been seen falling out of the skies across the south- western states in the hundreds of thousands, I don't think they freely offered to take part in their own mass extinction. Between raging wildfires and unseasonable cold snaps, how long did they reel through the sky until they couldn't, until they hit the ground, reduced to feathers and bones? When I find under the rosemary a bird's narrow skull of mottled ivory, it's not so much the brittle hollows of its eye sockets or the wanting to know whether it was flycatcher, swallow, or warbler that comes over me but that there's still a softness in the hinge that used to work its bill.
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.