~ Kabayan, Benguet
We hold on as long as we can
until the mountain trail swims
like a river of mist before our eyes,
and we know it's time.
Before we close our eyes and leave
the village forever, the shaman brings a drink
in a shell dipper to seal and drain
the body from inside.
Nothing of beeswax or honey must touch
our skin, but salt and stringent herb---
We want to be as parchment that light
can read through and through, high
among limestone rocks. When the last
breath exhales, we step outside and watch them
seat our corpses at our homestead's threshold,
over a low smoldering fire.
A gong's bronze notes weave
a month-long tent as slowly,
we dry and lengthen, limbs folded
and tucked in. Suspended
like this between sky and earth, we sit
like sculptures nested in sweet
pine boxes, waiting for the flower
that blooms only one night a year.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (Poetry Foundation web page, author webpage ) was recently appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-2022). She is Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 2020). She 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 former US Poet Laureate 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; she also teaches classes at The Muse Writers’ Center in Norfolk. 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.