Oton Death Mask
Luisa A. Igloria December 20, 2014
(Oton, Iloilo; 1300-1400 A.D.)

They’ve melted and cut
a ribbon of gold

into squares they’ll beat
with mallets to the thinness

of skinThey’ll trim
around the outlines

then lift with pincers to lay
upon the face of the beloved,

pressing upon the mouth
that kissed and doubtless

was kissed warmly in return,
the bridge of the nose

that flared quietly
for the last time

then shut close
in the early dark;

and because the dark
is real now, the two

eyepieces are a blessing—
one over each shaded socket,

medallions hammered to borrow
the sun’s old fire.


Melted gold,
thinness of skin,
beloved kissed
quietly then shut
to borrow fire.

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.

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