Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser

[ Also a partly found poem after Brian Doyle’s Joyas Voladoras; with thanks to Lina Sagaral Reyes for the link ]

I don’t know whose translucent wings those are
twitching, disappearing into a knothole in the ceiling;

but in the throes of great uncertainty I am
asked to consider the miniature:

– A heart the size of a pencil eraser, beating ten
times a second, hammering faster than we could hear.

– A heart that fuels flights more than five
hundred miles without stopping to rest.

– Hot heart that kisses at least a thousand flowers a day
but cold, slides into a torpor from which it might no longer rouse.

– Oh my constellation of fears, shamed by a wingstroke
smaller than a baby’s fingernail, thunderous as the world’s wild waterfalls.

– Heart like a race car engined by color, buffered
by wind, stripped for nothing but flight.

– Chant of bearded helmetcrests and booted racket-tails,
violet-tailed sylphs and crimson topazes.

– Rosary of charismatic names: amethyst woodstars and
rainbow-bearded thornbills, pufflegs and spatuletails.

– You’ve found me out: I have a bag of tortoise coins. I’ve spent them
like a miser, hoarding each little bit of copper against that one stupendous day.

– I’ve lived mostly alone in the bricked-up house of my heart,
but a wind teeters at the door, smelling of skin and apple breath.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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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 What is Left of Wings, I Ask (2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by Natasha Trethewey); 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 is a member of the core faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University which she directed from 2009-2015. In 2018, she was the inaugural Glasgow Distinguished Writer in Residence at Washington and Lee University. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

11 Replies to “Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser”

  1. Wow, that hummingbird poem by Luisa Igloria is incredible. That is the kind of poem that makes my heart ache and makes me want to say something to match that poet’s vision. I think we refer to it in human language as “inspiring.” In the language of hummingbirds, it is something else entirely, and very lovely…like a “hot heart that kisses at least a thousand flowers a day,” and not unlike the smell of “skin and apple breath.” Belissima! Thank you for sharing it, Dave.

  2. I’ve lived mostly alone in the bricked-up house of my heart,/but a wind teeters at the door, smelling of skin and apple breath.


    There are hearts. And there are hearts.
    But that bird with one smaller than
    a pencil eraser has worked frenziedly
    to whirr and flutter over eager flowers

    and tender leaves more than my wary
    heart has tried to run out and break
    free from its bricked-up gaoler, afraid
    that one day I would lose that teetering

    shadow at the door, pine for that scent
    I run to on evenings like this, to a deep
    smell of skin, and to taste his apple breath.
    O for an urgent whisper on a whiff of wind!

    Would the murmur of wings still be there,
    to keep my heart gentle and unshuttered?

    —Albert B. Casuga

  3. I have been searching for poems to be incorporated in the Philippine high school book (21st-century Literature from the Philippines and the World) I am working on. I found this well-crafted poem by an outstanding Filipino poet praiseworthy. With your permission, can I include it among the reading selections in the said book? I look forward to your favorable reply.

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