“Think of the trouble we go through
to see what will remain
of all our expectations.”
~ D. Bonta
said the farmer
and we picked
from among shapes
lying in the dust
of a watermelon field:
it was almost dark
and the penknife
nicked your finger
in severing fruit
from base of stem
and I thought, always
something is asked—
carve a door, find
the key, surrender
a tithe before you
sit to eat sweet
—Luisa A. Igloria
07 31 2014
In response to Via Negativa: News junkie.
In me your branches tingled with electric flames;
in me your roots have almost seeded vineyards—
on each limb your rafts of clustered orange,
bright as pain or epic love. I don’t wonder
anymore why each heart begins to bud
inside its flimsy paper cage: tender red,
berry for which you’ll tear at the garden’s
dark, its shaded network of veins.
~ After Octavio Paz’s “Proema”
Yes it is true, everything is vertigo:
vertigo of bodies so madly, rapidly vibrating.
We think they are merely standing still.
Vertigo of children spinning in the churchyard,
laughing because now the steeple looks
like it is about to fall—
Then there is the vertigo produced
by certain flowers crushed to a pulp—
Sh, I will tell you one more secret:
when mixed with water they release
a flotilla of bubbles into the air
and even the sky is vertigo.
I have no aphorisms or epithets for this,
I have no virtuoso solos. But I agree
wholeheartedly with you when you drag me to the edge
of the cliff and make your anguished pronouncements
about what we don’t know, which is mostly
the future; and the birds reel overhead,
a scattering of wild letters.
~ After Octavio Paz’s “Between going and staying” (Entre irse quedarse)
When I came I thought I could leave after so many years,
but as time passed there was always something new
to tie me down: Oh obligation, how elusive your promise
that someday all debts will be erased, the horizon cleared:
for choice, for true passage. The lawyer sends a letter
every year. In the drawer, a folder of accountables.
On the table, the gleanings of what we’ve come
to truly prize: careful miniatures set in oval frames,
a book of names, a box with just one handful
of yellowed photographs. Bloodlines are
most stubborn of all pulses running through
our veins. On first arriving here, I marveled
that most ceilings had no fixtures for flooding rooms
with light. Now I understand: we carry our own lamps.
There is no way to live in time without a history.
Who are you? They ask again and again.
How often must I read it, write it?
We are. I am. We are.
—Luisa A. Igloria
07 28 2014
In response to Via Negativa: Messenger.
What is tonight’s achievable dream?
The newspaper folded in half on the night stand.
What is the moon’s most visible trajectory?
Spears of gladioli flung down by a storm.
At what angle does your signature’s slant?
The stairs have balusters that match the landings.
What is the weight of a silver pendant?
A narrow channel in the ground where liquid flows.
What is a tempest?
The sound that honey makes in the bee.
What is the most impenetrable silence?
The crack made in a facet of marble.
What water is the most difficult to drink?
The one and only song of a karmic repetition.
I too left a country of rain for a country of apples.
I too had excess baggage to declare, most of it packed with salt.
At the turnstile when I dropped my coins I heard the first volley of thunder.
The sound reminded me of the day our town was riven by an earthquake.
The house I had built just months before opened like a book down the middle.
Thunder reminds me to go back to that page and read where I left off.
There was a room overlooking the yard and the neighborhood’s crowded houses.
There were tin roofs over which birds scattered leaflets of wings at dusk.
Where they went, no one thought to ask.
Under rectangles of mosquito netting, we took children to bed.
The hush just after the moment of falling asleep was meant to usher in dreams.
A pink and purple riot of blooms encircled the windows.
In the right kinds of quiet, their rustling resembled the undercurrent in some human conversations.
In the early mornings, after the hardest rain, a flood of papery asterisks stippled the sidewalks.
Their surfaces looked almost luminous, like the insides of bells or the faint filigree around certain sources of light.
~ after Cecilia Woloch
She asks: Will we look back on this someday and laugh at the ratio of ramen to hard cider and beer? What things will make us smile in that faraway future?
The past is such a storehouse packed with clutter; and still we try to make more room.
Where is that thing I put away in there that I need now? If I knew for certain what it was, I could tell you.
And the present?
The present is an envelope out of which unexpected things fall: tears, planes exploding, people falling from the sky; and almost always, unrelenting rain afterwards, as parents gather the bodies of their children from the beach.
I want to say there could be more than this.
I want to say there could be a white handkerchief scented with lemon oil.
There could be honeycomb shards from the blasted beehives to drop into a glass of hot and bitter tea.
I want to say.
—Luisa A. Igloria
07 25 2014
In response to Via Negativa: Arms Race.
Pops, and a series of loud bangs. The gas cap of a grey van is dark with soot and flapped open; where it’s parked, a little flame flickers at the base of an elm. The alley is veiled in smoke. A fire truck pulls up. Someone must have called. But whoever set off bottle rockets is gone. My mother-in-law says she saw three teenagers sprinting for the avenue. The fire is quickly doused. Hours after, the air has the unmistakable undertone of gunpowder. This is not something you necessarily smell in gunpowder tea, which is a form of green tea produced in certain provinces of China. Tea-pickers roll each leaf into small round pellets resembling ammunition. The harder and shinier they are when dried, the better flavor they impart when steeped briefly in hot, not boiling, water: not a lacerating bitterness, but a smoky mellow drift from leaves gathered just before sunrise, when the fog has not yet lifted from the ground.
In dreams, conflagrations
make me seek the cooler side
of cotton pillows.
—Luisa A. Igloria
07 24 2014
In response to Via Negativa: Dreamtime.
The phone rings. The caller, a woman, says in a frantic voice: “I cain’t find the fried chicken. I cain’t find the fried chicken.” In the background are car horns, indistinguishable voices. “Wrong number,” I say. She doesn’t hear above the noise. I have to repeat: “Wrong number.” A while later the phone rings again. I forget to check the number, but I’m thinking it’s still the chicken lady, desperate for her dinner. I wonder if I should ask her why the chicken crossed the road. Or where. Or why not baked or rotisserie chicken. But it’s not the chicken lady; it’s my contractor with the bad attitude, responding to my query from a week ago about roof repair. Scratch that: more like, hectoring. I can hardly get a word in edgewise— “You oughta’ be grateful it’s only a leak. You know I’ve got xyz jobs in far worse shape than what you got, that need my immediate attention. I’m running all over the place. I really don’t have the time. I coulda’ told you when you bought that house that the roof was bad.” Yeah? Well I don’t need to be lectured, mister. Pulverize is a word that applies to a number of materials. Pressure pulls the wire to decrease the stitch. Goodbye, wrong number. I don’t think I’ll be doing business with you again.
Red bell tower with a cotton lining; one dark-suited crow for a clapper.
The night birds chant a song of virgules only. When I wake, the fields have throats lined with frogs’ mating songs.
In the shallows, what makes the cheeks of the lotus bulge?
I squinted up into the trees and saw the face of the Buddha pressed on each green globe dangling.
Dear tufted seed lying in the maw of thunder, I raise my cup to be blessed.
—Luisa A. Igloria
07 21 2014
In response to Via Negativa: Farmer.