Luisa A. Igloria

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.

It’s not there yet,
not today, but I know
it’s coming. A river
disappeared in Canada
over the weekend,
and it’s only April
but all the cherry
blossoms are gone.
I want to try to be
ready, find out where
she keeps the paperwork
for her memorial plan;
what it will cost to make
a pyre out of the body
before sifting the gritty
ashes from calcified bone,
which is the last to go.
But as with any work still
in progress I can’t predict
how the plot develops;
just as, walking home
in the dark, it’s hard
to tell what parts
of the garden are rich
with oxygen until
I see the fireflies’
lights go out.

How marvelous
that we make something
out of nearly nothing—

rich stock
out of vegetables’
cast-off skins,

gold dye for wool
from mud and
turmeric paste;

idols of fish
and stallions from blocks
of ice for a rich man’s feast.

How lucky we are when
an eyelash trembles loose and
someone says Quick, make a wish.

Every now and then they make
their appearance in a dream—

the dead beloved I last glimpsed
from a high window, brushing

their teeth at the chipped yellow
porcelain sink, then drinking

from a small plastic cup
to rinse. Or sitting in a sliver

of moonlight, in a white metal
garden chair, dressed in nothing

but undergarments. I look into
their eyes of cloudy agate, filled

with the sorrow of a child who can’t
find anyone in the empty house

to tug her buttons into place,
to tie her difficult shoelaces.

Once I read a poem in which
everyone living is allotted only

a little over a hundred words every day;
and a man saves most of his words so he

can whisper I love you over and over
to his lover, quiet on the phone each night.

He never asks (how could he) what she spent
all her precious language on: he never

upbraids her for using the last dozen or so
on an order for food or coffee, or to answer

the doctor’s query on where it hurts
and how. It sounds incredulous until I

consider how many times I’ve been given
the last serving of fruit or slice of cheese,

the only seat in a waiting room; how
he’ll drive the miles and miles that still

need to be covered, through which I’m never
chided when sometimes I fall asleep.

(an erasure poem, based on a film review by Lucy Scholes in Lit Hub)

Everyday existence
in a study strewn with papers,
quotidian myth of exceptional
lives: the infamously reclusive
in daily repetition, habit,
routine— A man who drives
a bus, in bed early one morning—
still half asleep walks to work
shortly thereafter. The drapes,
the shower curtain, even
the crockery. Routine
as monotonous detail, day-in,
day-out. Love poem inspired
by a box of matches. In the early
morning sunlight, composition
begins. You have a life, I
have a routine whether
from memory or as spontaneous
composition, what’s first
and foremost a depiction of life.
The years are not kind;
how little they reveal,
supporting and frustrating
in equal measure. The balance
that must be struck in that
interdependency, all-consuming.