Luisa A. Igloria

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 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 teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

“The mother is the first world of the child and the last world of the adult.” ~ C.G. Jung

She’d threaten in her old rages:
Do you want me to send you back
to where you’re really from?

Confused, still only a child, how could
I know she meant another’s womb?
She’d threaten in her old rages:

not just me then, but her sister who bore
me; their secret shame a body opened,
bedded where it wasn’t really from.

Oh bitter years oppressed by grieving—
Imagine their long, strangled braid.
She’d threaten in her old rages

to leave, or banish us: repeated
cries demanding Go away! Or go
back to where you’re really from!

The only idol left now in her kingdom,
no one comes to call even if she’d beg
or threaten, just like in her old rages.
Is this really where I’m from?

“where the sea is now
we would meet” ~ D. Bonta

The day I flew away I did not think
to bring a bag of crumbs, white and
pebbled as moonlight, to scatter

from bank to bank for finding
the way back again. Besides, where
might they land without the sea

dredging them in salt, then swallowing
them whole? I traced with my finger
on the dirty plane window

faint bird tracks, running
stitches, imagining the faces
of the children looking up

into the sky’s inverted bowl. Who
again was the figure beside them,
crone-like, knobbed fingers weighted

with rings? What did she whisper
about the woods where she would take
them if they didn’t, if they didn’t—


In response to Via Negativa: Solastalgia.

8:09 01 13 18 Ballistic Missile Threat inbound to Hawaii.
Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.

“Can a human survive a nuclear blast by getting into a refrigerator?” ~ Quora

early in the film a bright orange cloud gushes
upward on the dust-colored horizon of the little
town with fake storefronts & fake people such
a charming test site they have everything

down to the last detail naugahyde couch &
antimacassar chintz curtains the father mother
& children facing the television watching not
watching the news they really can’t have

any idea what’s coming except for the hero
who’s stumbled onto the set there’s no voice
coming over the intercom saying seek immediate
shelter this is not a drill please remain calm

& follow instructions the hero makes a beeline
for the refrigerator tossing out the shelves &
bins the carton of milk the eggs & onions it’s
1957 it’s a new model with sea-foam green

interiors fully lined with lead he climbs in
just in the nick of time the expanding saturn
rings from the blast torch everything that can’t
duck & cover or clamber into a fallout shelter

its sign three inverted yellow triangles deadly
trefoil mushrooming within a circle of black
just a few weeks ago i noticed for the first
time a sign like that half-faded on the brick

wall of a local high school & in that movie
the hero survives but in others the people turn
sort of incandescent you can see their entire
skeleton all 206 bones lit up a fiery x-ray

meaning the flesh has melted is melting or is
gone what do you think they did in hawaii that day
for 38 minutes crouched in the cellar or bathroom
covering their children’s bodies with their own

What kinds of tests
keep changing so much,
each time results
require updating?

The egg cakes aren’t
perfect, the sushi master
informs his apprentice-son.
Maybe in 40 more years.

The applicant is told: We
wouldn’t have brought you
this far only to turn
you away at the gates.

Patiently she folds
a thousand squares of paper
into shapes with wings.
This is a way to promise.


In response to Via Negativa: Phoenix.

will you remember the time before consciousness

before the world’s farmstead was sold off in parts
one by one or wholesale first the animals then
the barn then the land divided & the furniture
finally the people saving what they could to go

elsewhere each on their own can you remember much

earlier that one evening the father gathering
the family the hurried ride to someone’s house where
they might sleep undisturbed one weekend more confer
with lawyers before he was put on a plane deported

while threats of violence swept over neighborhoods or

fires that razed everything from the dry mountainsides
up palm-lined avenues store windows melting clapboards
shingles that someone’s ancestors might have hammered
to make roofs to withstand a storm the test of time

therefore what’s meant by consciousness is really elegy

what can i offer besides the salt lick of commiseration
this morning in a box of old photographs i heard before
i saw one of those old musical greeting cards squirrels
on a branch a small chittering sound meant to mimic teeth

chipping away one hard flake at a time to get to the seed

who runs past at 2 am on the sidewalk
saying o my god o my god o my god

the silence of porch chairs swing of porch
ornaments & a cold strangling wind from god

no ambulance in sight no fire truck we heard
panic in the voice crying out to his god

my friend offered to call a shaman for a housewarming
she warned we’d have to kill a goat for the gods

for sure the sound would carry bleating then gurgling
explain to the neighbors about sacrifice to the gods

the idea of spirits is they’re everywhere in the air &
trees the difference is they’re hungrier than gods

i couldn’t see anyone in pursuit though there were other
voices i swear in the dark blue dark the echo o god

One of the hardest things
in the world to lift is a jar

of rain filled from the last
monsoon; or the fine, electric net

threaded of cricket cries over a field.
When you were young, you hardly noticed

the splendor fading light could give
to ragged skies, the way small

craft at the pier threatened to come
untethered in a squall. Now, the sound

of thunder is the hoof of the first
horseman striking stone. Quickly,

you gather the brightly patterned cloths
that you were counting and folding to give

away: deeply tinted orchids, careful beads
bursting their brightest blue and yellow.

~ for Jenny and Karen

You know the beginning of certain
dreams by the signals they send—

Chime ringing behind one door
at the end of a long hallway, clocks

unpinning themselves from the wall;
beautiful staircases in love with nothing

but themselves, going in perpetual
spirals. There might have been days

that felt like half a wishbone buried
in a book. There might have been

rooms in which some closets were locked,
but also others where light was sufficient

furniture. Think of that space where
the sound of your name, spoken aloud,

was enough. Tell me, how is the taste
of hunger also the shape of the only cup

from which you would want to drink?
Sometimes what the heart longs for

has really always been there– A circle
of stones shielding the fire from wind.

A row of pots on the balcony, cats
nosing among the sage and mint.

They’re never told how long they have to wait: if it is days, or weeks, or years. If the space between the kitchen and the dining room may be used for unrolling a sleeping pallet. If the contract is renewable or not. If they have to go through an agency, or grease the paperwork on their own.

On the other side of the equation, the one who has promised s/he is coming. The one who once said: not long now, only a year away; at most two. As if s/he could know.

If to bridegroom means to seal the rituals of promise, then what is simply to promise, knowing the impossibility of the future?

Always, it is the ones waiting admonished to stay awake, to keep their lamps trimmed and ready with oil. Which of them makes the sacrifice of going a few more months with meals of rice and soup, tinned fish or meat? Which of them tucks a fold of bills each fortnight inside the mattress?

At the end of my first journey, I find a plaster image of a saint tucked into a corner of my luggage. The painted blue of her cape, small as a fingernail with chipped lacquer. I think of the pebbled white of threaded jasmine buds, garlanded around a rearview mirror. Their lovely but oppressive scent.

In the dormitory, during the first weekend, a group crowds around the student from Cameroon; somehow he has managed to bring through customs a whole container of kati kati chicken. It’s my birthday, he says, please help me celebrate.

In the lobby, at a payphone: I push in coin after coin to get a long distance line. I’m afraid of getting cut off before it’s time, so I keep feeding it. My palm gets sweaty around the telephone receiver.

For the dead father, the dead grandmother, the son that passed away before his mother: let’s fill a plate with morsels from the table. Let’s set it on the windowsill, where moonlight and the loquat’s shadow can help them find a way back.

He turns to the woman
analyst in the room and asks
repeatedly where she is really
from. Where her people are from.
Which you know, if you’re a person
of color, is code for things like Aren’t
those slits you have for eyes evidence of
your sly and shifty nature?
She tries
to understand how something like this
can be happening. It’s the late 21st
century yet here’s the same old shit: You
couldn’t possibly be qualified, given your
On the matter of credentials,
and does she have them: all she can
think of is a string of sarcastic
interrogatives— Can a duck swim?
Is water wet? Do idiots become
geniuses overnight? Does Howdy
Doody have hollow wooden balls?