In lieu of a new-new poem today, and in the spirit of the season, I'm sharing a poem I wrote in 1997, which was published in the December issue of Poetry Magazine that year. May we look to gentler times. *** "The mystery kept secret for endless ages is now made clear." 1 The way it came to you was through the story of the carpenter, working one day in shade to plane the wood— Both hands, blistered and attentive to disturbances, finger the knobs and raised welts of surfaces, rubbing where the heart is the color of raw wheat or honey The shavings fall away like wings among the small pebbles near his feet, curled seraphs' ears near the ground, listening for the footfall of his intentions What of the woman who is already taking her place at his side, at night laying the tools in the basket, whose hands have kneaded the dough and wrapped the warm body of bread in napkins, leaving the outline of her fingers in its sides After all it is early enough, still possible to turn the other way, name it an act of will— To shut the window and remain like this inhaling only the musk of cedar and sandalwood among the cunning drawers and cabinets, the hasps and boards that do not need to sing when they are joined What of the course he might not have chosen but is given the chance to repudiate or consider, the salutations of light falling in a certain way so as to make objects compelling, to render in relief the outlines of chisels, sawteeth, nails, instruments A seam on the burnished wood: now barely noticeable, unsolicited memento, remnant of a casual encounter with lightning Unimportant except for the slight alteration in design, the way coming life is hardly yet breath, a flutter beneath the ribs, but already married to the coming days of this life. 2 A woman sets a table and cries out in surprise On the barren horizon there are no figures yet but something rises to her tongue— wintermelons, red rice, freshwater fish, green mangoes, extravagant longings The empty doorframe fills with space that throbs, a rectangle of light spilling on the stone patio Hand midway between her heart and her belly, she is wondering whose is the extra place The blue plate shimmers on white linen, the figures etched on china bow decorously, each to the other— a man and a woman, behind them a three-tiered pagoda, a willow tree, the grandmother at the upstairs window, carefully turning on the night-light
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.