"As I think back to those lovely tropic islands bright with flower and graceful palms floating like giant lilies on a sea of incredible blue, ...it seems beyond belief that only a few short months ago they could have echoed to the crash of cannons and the screams of dying men." ~ Roy Chapman Andrews, Under a Lucky Star, 1943 We got to see them by a stroke of luck— having asked after roaming the upper exhibit halls of the Smithsonian with no trace of specimens we knew were gathered by the research ship "Albatross" from 1907 to 1910. Someone told us the person who might know was out to lunch but would be back within the hour. So we returned to the Hall of Fossils, where the antlers of an Irish elk still flourished grandly from its skull, and the dull yellow gleam of a wild cat's saber tooth haloed the air with menace or a grin. Finally we were led to a basement hall where we could walk through vats arrayed in rows. Nearly ceiling-high, grey-glimmering in dim light, they held the bodies of fish gathered from Pacific waters following American acquisition of the Philippines in 1902. Preserved first with injections of ethyl alcohol then metal- or linen-tagged, ledger-entried: scorpionfish and hatchetfish, red lion fish, big-eyed and popeyed fish; shad and skate, cutthroat trout, bonito and prickleback. All manner of spine and stripe, rainbow and iridescent; phosphorescent and lantern- lit, close to a hundred thousand reaped with dynamite, dip nets, and traps. Then the ship's artist feverishly worked on color renditions, hundreds at a time. There they were, in vessels topped up with formalin or glycerol: much like we had been, specimens of science as well as of that old war.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (website) 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 was appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 2020-22, and in 2021 received 1 of 23 Poet Laureate Fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Mellon Foundation. 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.