The average age of a car is now reported to be 12.5 years— Cars are smarter, meaning their mechanics are improved by things like electricity and computers. Once, I read that an engine is like a house built to contain explosions. After ignition, gas fires up the pistons and the resulting chain of combustion creates enough energy for turning the wheels. In 2022, even in the midst of a global pandemic, the average life expectancy of humans is 72.98 years, not counting cryonics experiments like the one in Arizona, where a hundred and ninety-nine bodies and heads float in shiny tanks of liquid nitrogen, waiting for a future science which, surely, will know what to do with them. How is it possible for a woman to live past her 105th birthday, longer than any of her doctors, despite smoking daily for over half her life? Someone pronounced brain dead after a car crash can still make a gift of their tissues, corneas, or kidneys to a waiting organ recipient. My mother, now mostly propped up in bed in a nursing home, feels too weak to do anything but sleep—any day now, I'll think. Yet there are times when she rallies or quarrels with her caregivers, days when she confides she wants a slice of cake and wants to live to be at least a hundred. We know there is an end—when the mind's engine sputters and stalls in endless rewinds, when the body torques more vividly into a question without answer; when the mottled flesh and fruit of this life peels steadfast into itself, shedding honey for bone.
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.