Luisa A. Igloria

Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) 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 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 teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Push back against the hands
arranging the conditions

for movement (meaning barely any),
the narrow confines of a cell

stripped down to minimum
furnishings: cot with creaky

springs, mattress streaked
with sepia stains, cracked

washbowl in the corner. Kick
and scream when they send

the trumped-up summons,
as outside, someone prepares

the spit and starts the fire.
Recall every subterfuge and tactic

for stalling, every scanned
memory of some kind of hinge

or chink in the armor. Yes
your stamina can go beyond

a thousand and one nights. You
can also drive the tip of any sharp

point at hand into the first
blur that hesitates or wavers.

“…I dress myself for the dust” ~ D. Bonta

As rapidly as I
was made, I will
be unmade. Buttons
and hooks are
timely preface.

Past bloom,
speckled orchids
drop like rumpled
washcloths. Soft-
ness on tile.

The mood is
always preparatory
to farewell— until
the gurgle in the gut
establishes the hour.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Raiment.

(after Bennie Flores Ansell’s “Sprocket Swarm Migration”)

So many squares
cut away from darkness,
untethered from light,
lighter than any wish
that cast us adrift—
Massed where we are,
we form new continents:
room upon room upon room
in tenements that wobble
under the pinned weight
of our labor. From on high,
little squares of laundry
strung on clotheslines
on the balcony. We are
so slight: an army of ants,
echo of some fusillade
still falling over the Pacific.
Flight pattern of starlings:
a million eyelash marks
in the desert, trembling
before or after sleep.

Little woody star, your resinous perfume
wells up as if from the depths of ancient

wardrobes. In your breath I smell the hot
winds of summer, dry husks of grain

yellowing to chaff in the sun. I love
your foliate points opening outward,

the seed in each narrow chamber
a polished eye observing the daily

encounter. Pressing your outline
into the middle of my brow, I wish

for the kind of sight to carry me over
from the blackened hulls of the past, to drop

into the bottom of a teacup where no leaves
clump into calligraphies of dark foreboding.

The occurrence of three or more sounds
with no intervening vowels within a word

is what linguists call consonant clusters:
as in diphthong, glimpse, and angst. One

of my favorites, perhaps, is ironclad
that steam-propelled warship encased

in plates of metal, which in the 1800s
toted some of the heaviest artillery

ever brought out to sea, often equipped
with an elongated underwater beak for the then-

hot craze of ramming into enemy ships in ocean
warfare. In this navy town where we now live,

there are no hulls of old ironclads; but in the downtown
harbor, the Battleship Wisconsin is permanently berthed.

Just blocks away from the MacArthur museum, it houses
paraphernalia from WWII, including pictures of operations

east of Luzon in the Philippine Sea and along
the coast of Mindoro. I read that this battleship

weathered many violent storms and skirmishes,
but proved to be most seaworthy— There it stands

grey and gleaming in shallower waters, next
to pools of cultivated koi and sculptures of flat-

chested mermaids. As for the ironclads, those three
consonants tightly breastplating the middle of the word

remind me of stories of how the Portuguese explorer
Ferdinand Magellan met his end— in Philippine

waters, at the hands of a native chieftain, who
was supposed to have rammed the end of his spear

through the hinges of Magellan’s armor and up
his thigh. Poor Magellan, he never did manage

to circumnavigate the globe. His surviving crew
left him in Mactan to die, while they sailed

back eventually homeward, bearing cassia bark,
ginger, cardamom, turmeric, pepper, and cloves.

A bad beginning makes a bad ending: aphorism
commonly attributed to Euripides, but sounding almost
exactly like any other saying to that effect: Don’t
go into something with your eyes closed
; or
It takes more than good intentions to put an onion in the soup.
Keep the onion there, sure; but think of other ingredients,
meat not necessarily being the only one. I like a clear broth, not
oily with the flecked residues of fat and marrow. Clam broth
quickens the letdown of maternal milk; in gallon doses it can
soften the most reluctant ducts— They learn to relax into the
unfamiliar sensation of a little mouth latched onto the breast,
working frantically to pull at what can feed this ravenous,
yowling hunger. In time, the panic ceases, drowses at intervals.
Ziplocked lips fall open, the head lolls back; sweet breath!
Xenopus frogs’ hind legs once ballooned in labs to monitor the womb’s
vacancy or tenancy. Now, two stripes on a small cotton-backed window
trace the first faint signs of mystery. Did the frogs live or die?
Regardless of them or this meandering meditation, my
parents offered only one response to the news I was pregnant:
Now that you’ve made your bed, you get to lie in it. I didn’t
like the way that sounded then, nor do I now: like a poor
joke, as in Congratulations, think of becoming “with child” as
having won a kind of cruise of a lifetime. It took nearly twenty-
five years before I understood: plots don’t need to go from A-B-C-
D. Time’s a bitch in that there are things that have happened,
but there are places you can trade in some old furniture for new.

You wrote of the sand, the trees,
the sea’s constant whisper

those months you labored to learn
the language of your travels—

And in the darkness before dawn,
fishermen ploughing the moon’s

silver shine before the day
began. We were all younger then

and did not mind so much the heat;
then, turning a corner, the sudden,

all-encasing fog; the way the sun
could disappear for months

behind a heavy curtain of rain.
The little deprivations help

to train the body and the spirit:
short courses in stoicism, just

enough to help in that exercise
of weathering. But I know

how weak we are: which is to say
we think, with care, we might

actually get to live longer.
I also close my eyes when it seems

too much, when my fears lurch ahead:
glistening creature made of my own parts,

straining to outdistance the one
who appears at every crossroad—

the one I’ll have to carry
on my back wherever I go.

During Holy Week, we hire ourselves out
to row them around the man-made lake named

after the famous Chicago architect— tourists
dressed in woven tops, sweating in new acrylic

sweaters, afraid the flat-bottomed boats
shaped like swans might tip them over

into the tea-colored water where
they will drown. We don’t tell them

the water’s only thigh-high, that fifty
years ago a fountain strung with simple lights

sprayed clear rainbow jets into the air at night.
We pull on the oars and go in circles, answering

queries about where to find the sweetest
strawberries, that carved figurine of a little

man whose member springs to attention when
you lift the wooden barrel encasing his loins.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.