In Robinet Testard's miniature illustration of Ovid's Heroides, the painter captures the moment shortly after 49 of Danaus's 50 daughters have slit the throats of their sleeping husbands— Their beds, canopied and striped in crimson and gold, are spread through what looks almost like a drafty dormitory room. The floor is tiled in what could be pink- and green-flecked marble. Pillars and double doors guard their enclosure. They've been forced into marriages of convenience with their first cousins, for political reasons— their father has asked them to play along, then given each one a dagger for this deed on their wedding night. Only one of them—Hypermnestra— spares her husband because he honors her wish to remain a virgin. Each woman sits, startling pale feet swung over the edge of her bed, looking more shell-shocked than dismayed by what they've done. The one unfilial daughter is handed to the courts by her angry father, who accuses her of faithlessness. The others are condemned by the gods to an eternity of ceaseless labor: carrying water in perforated vessels, they can never fill a tub in which to wash away their sin. But neither myth nor painting tells how long they had to work at their futile task, or if in the end one of them filed a workplace grievance— I can think of several that fit the bill: excessive workload, bullying, toxic work environment, health and safety hazards; defective equipment, lack of clear term limits. Eventually, they gain pardon, even getting to choose new mates from the winners of some athletic contest.
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.