I never knew one of my grandmothers except by her first name, old-fashioned and sweet, like a pastry no one makes properly anymore: Filomena. My mother was six and her sister three, when someone ran into the village with news her only brother had been captured by the Japanese soldiers. During wartime, such distress is enough to make the heart stop beating. And I never knew one of my grandfathers except, also, by his first name: Alex, which makes me wonder if it was short for Alexander. It was hinted that he didn't stay around to raise any of the children he fathered, which is why I had no stories to add to my family tree homework—only a blank rectangle penciled in where he was supposed to be. Their children lived, somehow, through two wars: the first one an invasion; the second, a war of liberation. Because they hid in the church, they know that underneath new tile and blood-red carpet, there used to be a crack right down the middle of the aisle. When they left their homes, running from the rain of bombs, one of them carried a pair of socks but forgot his shoes. Another couldn't explain how it came to be that he'd lifted the rice pot off the stove, still warm and steaming. There are ghosts inside every bell tower, or walking the now clean hospital halls. In front of every flagpole in every square, pigeons peck at shadows where prisoners were lined up for execution. Every stone an old name, a story.
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.