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.

There was never snow,
so I could not hide my rage
in a mantle of cold.

And when I bore daughters,
my body was green but scored,
as if ready for perforation.

Did I think I was the one
abducted? Of course
it makes so much

sense. It took years
for my head to feel unwound
from layers, for me to bring

myself to count each
dark seed I spat out
from the heart of milk-

sweet flesh. This fruit
I cradle in my hand, little
grenade that bursts so easy.

I wonder at the whole
design of ruin… ~ D. Bonta

When you walk beneath their shadow
it is their breathing that first

alerts you— that musk, low
on the wind, meaning the buds

have ripened. That’s how it is
oftentimes in the world—

Just above your reach, all
the beautiful milky flowers

have opened their throats to sing.
And you, uncertain again

on the path of your calling,
of what brought you here.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Decline and fall.

On sultry afternoons or evenings during brownouts,
someone would take out a deck of cards and we’d play,

the still-warm ironing board dragged near the edge
of the bed so we could use it as a table— Nothing

complicated, mostly a game of matching pairs, one
card conveniently hidden away under the pillow.

That’s how we learned how much stock was placed
on finding the other half to make up a pair,

so as not to wind up the monkey, the tsongo,
the odd one out— Unpartnered in life, soltera

just like Ms. Concepcion Atienza who lived on the corner
of Palma and gave music lessons to us but did not know

how to iron a shirt nor boil a pot of water to steep
her own tea. But she has servants, my cousin reminded,

triumphantly fishing out the last pairable card
from my hand before flushing the Queen out in plain

view— And she took trips abroad, I knew: to Spain,
where she bought that cologne she liked to wear

that smelled of violets. She came from old stock,
a family with an estate somewhere in Batangas. Still,

everyone pitied her, though she knew music, both scales
and solfeggio, and therefore, now I think, more than

a little math— Only embroidery and crochet
besides piano, and no English at all though times

had changed. Our fathers and mothers brought us to her
so she could add to our repertoire of skills to fluff out

at some appropriate time: our coming out? some grand
debut? She led my fingers through exercises

on the weighted keys, the first of many teachers
in succession until at fifteen I played in my first

solo recital. By then, we heard she’d died, more alone
than in her former life, after a season of wasting

away on a hospital bed in the capital. And by then
I’d grown weary of the discipline of only scales,

abandoned dreams that others had for me of entering
conservatory. I longed to plunge ahead into that more

open field called college, where I’d glimpsed
flashes of other lives I might perhaps slip into;

and, after the silences of the library, the dim
musk of folk-houses filling after dusk with smoke

and tambourines, plaintive with Dylan or Simon and Garfunkel
—music against which our bodies strained to find each other.

* By pairs

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Spring 2016

Tuesday, rain, distant thunder;
and this restlessness
beneath my ribs.

I cannot pinpoint its source
though I’ve felt it before.
Ghost of a deep-

seated longing, skeleton
of a self looking upon itself
as though through other selves—

like rain pouring down in a room,
but always just a few steps
ahead of the moving body.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

The figs are starting to come in
on the tree in the backyard,

I tell my neighbor. And she says
her sister put in the tree

years ago when she still owned
the house that we now live in.

They give us such pleasure,
I say of the figs. Well I’m glad,

says my neighbor, though my sister
no longer gives me any
.

~ after Borges

Once I told myself I would not buy
another, not until I’d read

the ones I have— But how is it
that in our world, books

seem to outnumber the days,
and the days rush onward faster

than an automated teleprompter?
Once I thought I had all the time

to learn what they had to tell me—
but still I know so little.

Once I read a story where the hero
sought reprieve and in a dream,

was led to one shining letter
on a page, in a library which time

appeared to have forgotten. I know
that isn’t my story— All the same,

I wish sometimes that I might live
in that timeless interval between

the sentence as it made its way
through the rain and its final

pronouncement; for the grace to write
and fill in all the parts still missing.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Good books.

And perhaps it’s because we can’t bear
to see so much, all at once. Thus

the light must fracture around the figure
in the eye of the lens— How onscreen,

the black and white grains we call snow
soften the edges of a body before it falls

to the ground: the exiled senator face down
on the tarmac only minutes after exiting

the plane, his people’s hope snuffed out
by an assassin’s bullet. Or, six years later,

the man in a white shirt and black trousers
carrying a shopping bag, slender reed weaving

in the path of a column of tanks as they bear
down the middle of Tienanmen Square… So now

when I look at that famous painting of a peaceful
Sunday at La Grande Jatte, sometimes I wonder

what tremors of oncoming fatality the light’s diffusion
may be hiding: whether the man leaning against a tree

in the distance is feeling a sudden lethal constriction
around his heart; whether the young girl with a nosegay

sitting on the grass next to the woman holding up a blue
parasol is contemplating how to end her engagement

with the world. Even the child clothed in white, dead
center, appears frozen at the thought of the dog

in the foreground—apparition of darkness so carefully drawn,
dot by dot, in a world of seeming brightness and decorum.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Chrysophyllum cainito

Darkly violet, warm and musky,
globes we plucked from the tree

—quick plunder that bulged
from the hems of our t-shirts,

their sap already starting
to run and thicken. Each summer

we scaled the tree— Caimito
for the pucker and milk of flesh,

for the promised body buried
as a star in the apple’s belly.

I threw
everything of myself

into the mix, hoping
to rise

as the elements rose—
Into the bubbling well

I dove with my new
immigrant’s papers, my best

pair of shoes, my two
pieces of luggage and change

from the cab that idled
in the drive while I checked

the address I clutched
in one hand. When ice

spangled the branches
I steadied my not yet

automatic heart,
making it promises.

I thought of bodies
floating through the cabin,

their smiles miniature moons
etched on glass.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

I said bookends
but I meant a certain street:
the market at one end,
the post office at the other.

*

The smell of rain
above a dusty track
where ponies and the pony
boys wait for tourists.

*

Have you ever been
a passenger on a bus,
one side completely open?
The road, bent around a cliff.

*

The goats eat,
sure-footed, among
the rocky outcrop.
No one charters them.

*

Behind glass, mouths
open to sing a chorus
in their empty orchestra.
Trays of beer and hot peanuts.

*

MacArthur Park is always
melting in the dark.
From the promontory, the sea
is visible on clear days.

*

The last time I was there,
I lifted the latch
off the gate. I said
I’m going instead of goodbye.

*