If I write of the bamboo luggage handle

rigged with twine that broke when the boat

capsized and the stone of my arrival sank
into the murk beneath the waves, I become

more of what you are most convinced
I am— There, swallowed by a giant fish

which spits me up after months of servitude
and tedium spent scouring its insides

until they glow like powder rooms
in expensive hotels, wallpaper

the shade of pink Himalayan salt.
My ears, by your reckoning,

have curled sufficiently inward
to indicate that I have learned

the lessons of constant chastening.
Now I can be given papers, a name

that can fit into a mouth, picked out
of a great book sitting on the podium

of the landing station. The answer
to the complex problem that I present

is better arrived at, in your opinion,
if I write of rice fields bordered

by ruins, or of women smoking dark
rings at dusk in beer gardens,

while soldiers patrol the periphery. You like
the postcard of the explorer in dungarees,

grinning broadly for the camera as he fondles
the breasts of native women flanking him

on each side. You think the answer to the problem
is a story thick with the porridge of suffering,

the better somehow, for us who’ve eaten of it
daily to aspire to nobility— The answer

to the problem is not the sorrow of children
diving naked into the sea for the prize

of a single black pearl, but those depths
which will embrace us all, indiscriminately.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Troubled.

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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