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.

When peonies bow
does the gardener bow back?

Ranunculus and layers of crepe paper;
meadow buttercup and winding vines.

Contrary to what you think
I can be patient and forbearing.

All these years: water filled the cistern,
brimmed. Blue-fingered rain spilled

more than grief from a vessel.
In the middle of a quiet room

sometimes it feels like church.
Only light bows completely

to the floor; sometimes deeper.

Only light bows completely.
Sometimes it feels like church

in the middle of a quiet room.
More than grief from a vessel

brimmed. Blue-fingered rain spilled
all these years; water filled the cistern.

I can be patient and forbearing,
contrary to what you think.

Meadow buttercup and winding vines,
ranunculus and layers of crepe paper.

Does the gardener bow back
when peonies bow?


In response to Via Negativa: Some notions about peonies.

This entry is part 13 of 13 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

Off in the woods, the glint of old glass.
Light another spear glancing off what’s shorn.
What they mean when they say fractal:
all the selves, never discarded; only spun,
differently colored, blue with memory or amber
from what filled and filled and sometimes emptied.
Hand, mouth, head. Isn’t that what fragments are for?
From what filled and filled and sometimes emptied
differently colored, blue with memory or amber:
all the selves, never discarded; only spun.
What they mean when they say fractal:
light another spear glancing off what’s shorn;
off in the woods, the glint of old glass.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

A bird is the beginning
of many leaves

the first line of a scroll,
ink in the heart of the tree
before rain carried a sound
for sorrow,
before the first word found
the first poet:
before the first word found
for sorrow,
before rain carried a sound;
ink in the heart of the tree,
the first line of a scroll
of many leaves—
a bird is the beginning.


In response to Via Negativa: Ornithography.

Coming home today my daughter
startled in her tracks exclaims

at the wrinkled, pruney body
and its tufts of raggedy

beginning feathers, patches
of pink-grey flesh underneath:

some freak wind has blown
this nest of twigs and dry matter

out of a tree— which? And now,
this not even fledged and beating

thing is trembling at our feet.
Gently we pick it up and lay it

back in the nest, or that part
most unbroken; then set the whole

into a shoebox lined with dish
towels and some leaves. Its mother

is nowhere to be found— lost,
or herself perished? The feathers

are very recent growth: charcoal
smudge, faint five-o’-clock shadow.

Though there are possible
forms of intervention,

not knowing what kind of bird—
seed eater or not?— makes it hard.

It’s breathing, but barely.
This much we know: there’s a fig

tree in back under whose leaves
we could dig a hole to bury it,

should it sink into that final
abandonment— but not just yet.


In response to Via Negativa: Tarantism.

Whipstitch, running stitch, feather,
chain; and leaves of the apple tree

that we filled in with close-lipped
satin. See the mercerized gloss,

the crimson lifting the fruit away
from the weave, an outline to make it

more beckoning— Within the hoop
that cinched the frame, a space

for working out the eternal
questions: what name do you give

the broad leaf that becomes your bed?
how many knots will signify desire?

Don’t pull the snarls apart, only tug
at them gently. After the fruit’s

been plucked and eaten, after the birds
have flown away, the sky’s blue canvas

does not fall to pieces at your feet.
The only hedge that needs repair

is the one that rings the sundial.
The difference between before

and after is that now, time ticks
louder. Ivy runs rampant underfoot;

thistle, groundsel, chokeweed. So much
you wish sometimes you didn’t know.


In response to Via Negativa: Sweet nothing.

In some games it’s all downhill:
momentum gained from the speed of
careening closer to the ravine.

Wind is an accessory, whipping
your scarf into an aerodynamic
arrow; or, the lift you ride

to sail across the chasm. Rocks
litter the craggy landscape. Silver birch
and fir, the only things that gesture

upward. You can’t remember how many nights
or days or cycles you’ve picked yourself up
from countless falls. The moon’s a pendant,

festooned on the lower registers.
Its glow is soft, like kindness; like a face
you once saw in a window, looking as you passed.

Last year all they ever asked about
was the boxer with the crumpled face
and his like-a-drag-queen-dressing momma,
until the recent media fiasco and his homophobic
sermon. This year it’s going to be nothing
but the Filipino Trump, the curfew he’s imposed;
that crying scene at his parents’ graves
where he prayed for the light of some divine
or otherworldly guidance, straight
out of a telenovela; the rape jokes, the assassin
squads, the way pictures of dead bodies
have already landed on the front pages
with eyes and hands duct-taped, signs
hung on their bludgeoned torsos saying I
am a drug dealer and a bad example to society

Even now we’re bracing for the rhetoric of pity
and piety, the disputes that have broken out
among strangers as with kith and kin: Whose
side are you on?
But as always the taxicab
of history picks up its passengers, takes them where
they think they want to go; then leaves them there.


In response to Via Negativa: Gut.

with no white name
with no black name

with no mixed blood
obvious enough to claim

with no history
of washing ashore

on a dinghy, or nearly
dying in a jungle war

with no complicated love
with no indigenous face

with no movie star relative
with no time spent working

for a sheikh in the middle east
with no lost years hiding

in basements without papers
with no siblings betrothed

to factory sewing
machines with no comfort

woman for a grandmother
with no deadbeat for

a father or call
girl for a mother

with no pedigree
of either poverty

or wealth with which
to thicken narrative

“…our passing
is common as ash”
~ D. Bonta

Here at twilight, the smell
of earth after days of rain;
and over that, salt trace

carried over by wind
from the coast.
We climbed

the winding wrought-
iron staircase to look
over the mouth

of the bay. Inside
the tower’s bell-
shaped skirt,

the morning’s heat
another sheath
not yet shed—

Would we have known
where to look, or how
to find the pain budding

even then? The way
some things nest quietly
before they are noticed.

The way fog obscures
the shore, these rocks
that have always been here.


In response to Via Negativa: Immortal bird.

She was barely two
when she fell over the first
time in her crib, stiffening
into a seizure, rousing

fifteen hours later
from such a deep sleep
we kept anxious vigil,
noting the lack of tone

in her limbs—
We crowded around her
when she sat up in
the hospital bed:

wonder of the child
now speaking in complete
sentences, whereas before
she had just begun

forming words.
And she asked not only
for something to eat,
but specifically

for not just food
Meaning she craved,
somehow, a taste
she had not yet met.

More than fifty
years after, I still think
about that moment every now
and then, when I myself

hunger for something I can’t
place a finger on: for something
I want so badly, only I’ve been
asleep or away too long.


In response to Via Negativa: Fetish.