This is the second of four books that Kristin Berkey-Abbott and I are encouraging others to also read and blog about this month. If you do so anytime before the end of the month, please send me the link and I’ll update this post to include it, right up here at the top:
[4/14] Kristin Berkey-Abbot: “The Hungers that Crochet Us Together”
[4/14] mole: “Braid”
Fresh from a dream of trees bent by the wind, I open Luisa’s next-to-most-recent book and read the opening lines about trees bent by the wind. This is surprising but not astonishing: many and varied are the images in any given dream and in any given poem by Luisa A. Igloria, so the chance of overlap isn’t as slim as it might initially seem.
A pair of trees on one side of the walk, leaning
now into the wind in a stance we’d call involuntary—
I can see them from the kitchen window, as I take meat
out of the oven and hold my palms above the crust, darkened
with burnt sugar. Nailed with cloves, small earth of flesh
still smoldering from its furnace. In truth I want to take it
into the garden and bury it in soil.
The day is dank and cold and I am forced to read inside, holding the book to the window to save on electricity. When it starts to rain, it’s as if the outside air is trying to answer the shimmer of text on page. I read some of the poems standing up to improve my concentration, but however I read them, these are not poems to give up all their meanings on the first or second read.
Someone walks with you a little
each day, and you feel that you begin
to know a little more—the way she holds
her head, the way he asks a question. You walk
a little more and listen, nothing more—until
the language of question and answer begins to sound
familiar as the plink of water, begins to resemble
the space cleared as a lamp is lit in a room, into which
the shy guest, crossing the threshold, can enter.
(“The Right to Capture”)
It’s odd: when I finished Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke last week, I felt as if it had been two or three times too long. I loved the poems, but felt they were just too intense, too concentrated for a collection of that length. With Igloria’s work, by contrast, I just want to keep reading.
In a book I’m re-reading tonight, a poet questions
any plenitude that seems to come too soon,
Even now, I am having trouble writing this because I keep stopping to read the book again. This isn’t because we’re friends and I publish her poems here; I felt this way long before we were even Facebook friends. There’s a richness of allusions and points of reference, an almost Borgesian love of all manner of arcana (as signaled by the very title of the book), which may in part be due to where Luisa grew up, the Philippines being such a crossroads.
At the beginning of the new
year, I slid open all the drawers
in my house and found a nostalgia
which was the color and odor of a different
season in another country—
preserved skeletons of flowers,
brittle as dry wings; sheets of hand-
writing, ambiguous as the sea.
(“Tree of Prophecy”)
Then too she is constantly varying the style, much as she does here at Via Negativa, following heavy with light, speculative with narrative, prose poem with airy three-line stanzas. I think of other favorite poets such as Jim Harrison and James Wright, and how much fun it can be to lose myself in volumes of their collected works — especially while traveling. How much longer do we have to wait for the Collected Poems of Luisa A. Igloria, vol. I?
In a hotel with cobalt paint and yellow trim, one room had only books and windows, and no clocks by which to tell the time. One room was a well within a shaded garden. Another had only silence for furniture. One room once held a prisoner of war—its walls covered with messages he scratched on stone with his bare hands before he escaped into the sunlight, disguised as a bird.
(“A String of Days”)
The rain drums its corrido on the four roofs of my house — a marimba with four bars. I brew a little more coffee to chase the sleep from my eyes, though drinking coffee any time after supper isn’t something I want to make a habit of. These are poems well worth burning the midnight oil to re-read.
You could lift the hem of rain and enter its grotto. Habit is what blurs gesture into allotment and enclosure. Fold it between times with a monk’s cord of silence, just a slick of candle fat. That way the next becomes sacrament.