Is it my body
I inhabit, or do I only haunt
a country whose maps have grown
Luisa A. Igloria, “On Suffering”
This body, a box of paints with a broken brush,
a violin with a bow
of exploded horsehair.
But the maker of mosaics knows the value
of shattered glass. The collage artist
pieces the picture together out of fragments.
My body, a swamp to shelter
runaway slaves, a garden run wild.
Some months, the land
produces enough to keep us fed.
Other months, the crops wither
The soil resurrects
itself by consuming every dead
creature back to basic elements
and recycling all our dreams.
We are cameras with vast
digital files and no efficient way of archiving
them. Some days, we can find what we need
in this filing cabinet of doom; some years, we search
with increasing desperation for the lost
material. The best afternoons develop
when we take unplanned rambles
through the weedy, winding paths
so far from home.
Once, I was an athlete, running
long distances in the pre-dawn haze
of summer. Now I set the kettle
on to boil as I plot
the day ahead. Once I breakfasted
on the freshest fruit. Now I bake
muffins, close cousins to cupcakes.
I adorn each one with a quilt
of my homemade lemon curd
and the preserved and sugared rinds
of citrus from the trees that stoop
with gifts for those with eyes to see.
Reincarnation happens here, Mister
Cottonwood. Do not discard any
candidates. All may be re-purposed.
Laura M. Kaminski, “Give Me Your Ravaged, Your Ruined”
My grandmother saved every scrap.
She pieced coverlets from the remainders
of the clothes she sewed,
although she hated quilting.
For all I know,
she might have hated sewing.
But the Depression schooled her in the ways
of thrift, lessons that couldn’t be unlearned.
I still have the sock monkey that my mother
sewed for me, although he bleeds
my mother’s old pantyhose that she used
for stuffing. The fabric of his body is too frayed
to be repaired or repurposed.
I keep a box of clothes too worn
to wear and too stained to use
for fabric art. I have no need for dust rags,
since I use the high tech pads that trap
particles with static. I use
the rags to clean up spills or to oil the furniture.
I slide my hand into the sock
and think of a not-too-distant past,
cotton grown in vast fields, seeds separated
out, fibers spun, and then loomed
into cloth. I think of slaves
and industries that rely on them,
human histories woven in our every fiber.
A different year, a different state,
a different bar…this one called
Suds, and open early, from 8 AM
Laura M. Kaminski, Laundry Poem #4: Suds
A colleague at work owns a washing machine,
but he still goes to the laundromat for the social
interactions. His local washateria must be different
from the ones I remember.
In grad school, decades ago, we did our laundry in groups
so we could keep an eye on our clothes and the unsavory
types that wandered in and out of the harsh
lighting. Later we loaded our cars
to go to Suds, the place near campus
that charged the same hoping
we’d buy beers and play pool while we waited.
I still wash my clothes until they’re threadbare,
a grad school habit left from days when I could scrounge
together laundry money but not enough for a shirt,
not even from the Salvation Army thrift store.
Now I still wash laundry in the earliest
hours of the morning, but it’s a much quieter
event, no pool balls cracking,
no homeless man muttering about the light
of Heaven shimmering just above our heads.
with all the evening music
great as a prayer
Dave Bonta, “Red-Lined“
I awake early on the Feast
of All Saints and take
my coffee to the porch.
Once I would have stayed
awake until this hour, wringing
all the celebration possible
out of our All Hallows Eve.
I say a prayer for all those departed,
the ones gone much too early from the party.
Once I would have lit the candles
and declared my love
of thin spaces. Now I fear the hunger
of ghosts who are not ready
to leave and the hooligans
who take advantage of the dark.
I touch the pumpkin’s crumpled face
collapsed from the candle’s heat.
I put the gourd on the pile
of tree limbs ripped from the body
of the tree canopy during September’s storm.
I hear one lone bird singing
either a prayer to greet
the morning or a lullaby before sleep.
I look to the sky, still dark,
no message in the stars.
we fall from hell
into a committee meeting
“Fall” by Dave Bonta
Before he goes to the department meeting, he watches
old nuclear war movies on the Internet. He fast
forwards to the moment of destruction:
mushroom clouds bloom in the background
as he prepares his notes.
During the meeting, she
finds comfort in the words
of John the Baptist. “I am not
the Messiah.” She repeats
this mantra as she tries
to think through the ramifications
of bad budget numbers.
I realize too late that I should not have listened
to punk music on my way to work.
I emerge from the meeting yearning
to be sedated. Instead, I make another binder
of documents that will yellow
into insignificance. I think of paperless
offices and other promises of a future
yet to arrive.
Let us not spend
these remaining days being experimental
and eating nothing
Luisa A. Igloria, “If these are the last days”
Is this the end of days
or simply the end of the year?
Either way, we behave
the same: for breakfast, we eat
cookies full of butter and nuts.
We begin home repair projects unlikely
to be finished. We eat salad
for lunch, because we may survive
and need some nutrients.
In the afternoon, we meet friends
for tea and conversations that deepen
in the gathering dusk. During the evening lit
only by the table-top trees, we eat
the last of the cookies and await
the final answers.
We were always
Trying to run toward each other.
Luisa A. Igloria, “Landscape in an afterlife“
Once again, you find yourself
on the old revolutionary road
with the houses that once hid
the asylum seekers.
The long road stretches
before you, overgrown
with brambles and struggling seedlings.
You see the fires
ahead, burning cities
or perhaps the lights
of fellow travelers.
Smoke hides the mountains.
The road is lined
with the suitcases of immigrants
who abandoned all the essentials
they once lugged to a new country.
You have kept your treasures
sewn into your hemlines, heirloom
seeds and the small computer chip
that holds your freedom papers.
Your grandmother’s gold hoops dance
in your earlobes and twinkle
around your fingers.
You hear the voices of the ancestors,
colored with both reason and panic.
Go faster, they urge.
You are needed up ahead.
Not accepting, not rejecting
says the Buddha as the demons
elect to live with him
Hospitality for demons by Luisa A. Igloria
I think of the demons
that have kept us company
through the ages.
Now we have medications
that quiet the howling
of some of these demons.
But still some ask for stories
and a glass of milk.
Some make stronger demands,
and we struggle to deliver.
On the morning after the election
the seething wind finally silenced,
I startle from sleep, mistaking
the cat’s crying
for a larger weeping.
I listen for the call of the ancient
prophet or the modern Romero,
and hear the rustle in the palm trees.
On this holiday, the living
visit the cities of the dead…
Remembering the dead by Luisa A. Igloria
The dead do not want
your candles or your picnics,
all your attempts to stay connected.
The dead scoff
at your sugar skulls
and all the ways you try
to sweeten the truth.
You will join them soon
enough, so leave the dead
to their own devices. Conduct
your business in the land
of the living. Wear your baubles
because they are beautiful,
not because you hope
that they can protect
you from the malevolent spirits,
the ones your grandmother warned
you of, thousands of them,
keeping watch over every hour.
mediums; the ones who never deign to tell us anything
about that future whose smell we already know.
“Always, the women get their hands dirty” by Luisa Igloria
The wind changes direction, and we smell
the future, just a hint of iron
underneath the scent of oyster
beds at low tide.
I think of ancient ancestors
who could forecast the week’s weather
based on the wanderings
of each cloud. But I consult
the oracles through my computer.
My oracles will be silenced
tonight. The wind howls
around my closed hurricane shutters.
I can smell the distant miseries
that this storm has folded
into itself, the despair that threatens
to fill the house with sorrow.
I add extra spices to the pot of stew,
some peppers dried during a distant harvest.
Although I still have electricity, I light
the candles and turn off
every switch. I fill the lamps with oil.
I could live forever in this light
that hides the dust intent on colonizing
I give the stew one last stir and tuck
towels at every entrance. I rock
in the chair carved long ago for a pregnant
bride. I open the antique
prayer book and let the ancient rhythms
cast their spell.