Mouth Song

In the mountain city,
twelve cats gathered
in the alley behind the dim
sum restaurant with my name.

I do not believe
the urban legends—
I like my steamed meat bun
best with Chinese sausages;

I’ve had a few with salty
duck egg. The puckered,
fluted edges are stamped
with the end of a chopstick

dipped in red food dye so you
can tell which one is which.
So long since we beheld
the glory of a whole

suckling pig, lechon
de leche
. How many of them
could you fit lengthwise
like a ship in a clear

glass bottle? Do you want
to know how many heirloom beads
were given for my hand at my
first marriage? (None.

That was just a joke.)
My father, when he was still
alive, tore off the crackling
ear, the whole savory tongue

to put into my babies’
mouths. We do not have
Rosetta stones, but o
we have taste buds.

Desire was our first
teacher: blood, guts,
marrow, mineral tang;
gristle, and then the long

sweet shank that simmered
until the meat fell off
the bone. Taste made us
learn as much as we could

about the world, before
we even saw it. Taste
made us restless: rooting,
sniffing at the door

of all we imagined
we could have.


In response to Via Negativa: Divided loyalties.

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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 (forthcoming, 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, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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