1 People seem surprised when I tell them I don't really like hot weather—But aren't your people from a tropical country? Similarly, at news of widespread devastation wrought by cyclones and hurricanes, immediately they ask if my family have suffered any losses. Which is to say, they don't know I'm from upcountry, so far north where every mountain was once blanketed with Benguet pine and moss, until it was turned into a colonial hill station. Early colonizers were so excited to find this pocket of green—this Shangri-la wild with orange groves, rice terraces, trumpet flower vines; hidden waterfalls and veins of ore. Plagued by infernal heat and humidity in the lowlands, they lost no time gathering up their coattails and cravats, top hats and silk shirts (surprising they didn't adapt their own habitual dress to their new circumstances), carving a city into its heart and pushing the natives to the outskirts. No resinous trace of pine left in the air now, or frosty mornings. Only rising heat and diesel fog, billboard after billboard advertising mobile phones and luxury condominium housing. 2 My Korean friend once told me: fight heat with more heat. In summer, steamed rice or boiled noodles, piled in a lake of gochujang sauce and ladled over with chili oil. Food that makes you sweat, cools the temperature of your blood. A little gash of water on the nape or on the wrists. Sit still, preferably on a lower floor with windows open. 3 Is it hot or is it me? Cat on a hot tin roof, the dog days of summer hot enough to fry the hot mess of an egg on the sidewalk. Is it hot or is it me? Not even a mile up the road, cool marble pillars hold up a mansion's roof. Columns of shade trees all around. The hum of HVAC boxes. Is it hot or is it me? Asphalt paved parking lots and outdoor basketball courts. Bus stops with no shade. Some housing areas are right in the middle of a food desert. 4 Don't burn your bridges. Don't leave the babies in the car. Don't pour more concrete on surfaces. Don't burn the candle at both ends. Pray that volcanoes stay quiet. The heat is on.
Poet Luisa A. Igloria (website) is the 2023 Immigrant Writing Series prize winner for Caulbearer: Poems (due out from Black Lawrence Press in 2024), and Co-Winner of the 2019 Crab Orchard Open Competition in Poetry for Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Southern Illinois University Press, September 2020). She was appointed Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 2020-22, and in 2021 received 1 of 23 Poet Laureate Fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Mellon Foundation. 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.