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.

“What if you could/ say only one thing for the rest of your life…” ~ Adriana Cloud

What else do you need, you texted
from the convenience store. I asked

for one pen but you bought a pack
of 10 + bonus— blue ink carriages

in their filmy cellophane wrapper
with a double heart. And oh, maybe

a few plastic hangers; but you bought
what you said was the minimum

of 16; and as afterthought, an extra
pack of coffee pods even when I’d counted

what I had and knew there should be enough.
Because I was raised to save every leftover

bit of string, taught to eat the bitter
greens and hold something back

for that proverbial rainy day, I always
want to smooth and re-fold every square

of glossy paper loosened from a gift,
parcel out every part of the butchered

animal so that it lasts and lasts and lasts
until the gristly end. I thought

this was the only way to care for:
like taking one step forward and two

steps back will make sure there’s always
enough to go around. Like after all

these years I haven’t learned the difference
between slowness and patience. Like speaking

warnings instead of carefully going over
the sums makes a better armor for the heart.

~ after Natalie D’Arbeloff; 2018, Boxwork, mixed media 11″ x 11″ x 7.5

Oh yes that’s you: scabbed,
acne-scarred, awkward as hell,

tongue-tied even just answering
the telephone. And nobody seems

to understand the exquisite
loneliness of checkerboard tile,

the smell of old polyvinyl
chloride shower curtains, chipped

blue enamel in this bathroom
where you retreat at least twice

a day. You let thin arrows
of scalding water rain down

your chest and shoulders,
breathe in the steam that lets

the hurt you’ve been hoarding
in your lungs escape at last—

pfffft. You rub yourself
raw with a pumice stone, soap

on skin afterward another penance
before the rinse. You already know

how it comes down to the body,
how it comes down to rituals

we’ll make for softening more
than flesh: but only later without

judgment, with kindness, before
going back into the world again.

It’s human nature to seek
the short cut, the cool side

of the pillow, the nearest cave
with dimmed lights and no noise

when the sledgehammers of everyday
despair return to their favorite

construction sites in the brain.
But it’s also human nature to want

to know who else might be in a similar
or maybe slightly worse predicament:

to slow down as you drive past the truck
that flipped over this morning at the inter-

section of Hampton and Bolling, the engine
visibly steaming, blue lights and sirens

blaring toward the scene. Don’t look,
my father might have said that day

years ago as we passed the mangled heap
of a pedicab hit by a bus on the highway,

the driver’s body flung across the ditch—
fearful that the sight of blood and mortal

wounding might undermine my faith
in the world. And then there are those

who leap out of their own vehicles, run
straight into the accident site, go down

on hands and knees, searching through
broken glass for any visible signs of life.

that no one taught the bee

to thread its humming again
through the door of any hive;

that in some fields, blue
begins to stipple its way

through green. On hillsides,
the yellow of beggarticks,

the open mouths of dogwood.
Don’t doubt the rain, don’t walk

under signposts that point
elsewhere, away from the ordinary.

Should icicles yield their spears
from the eaves as you pass, take it

as a sign that ponds are starting
to brim with gurgle— That shimmer

in the rushes, perhaps your
many acres of sorrow folding.

and under our breath
asked permission
to pass through the garden,
through any stretch of strung
vine and moss-speckled trail
kept by unseen spirits.
We mean no harm, we said
as we plucked a buttercup
or mimosa leaf that drew back
into itself at our touch.

First you want to know
why I don’t write poems
in my own language—

Which tongue was mine
though, before you
tore it from its bed?

Torque is the instance
of force that causes

something to twist
against itself,

against the trellis
to which it’s been lashed.
Here I am: I’ve lived nearly

more than half my life
away from what you call
the boondocks.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

I like to say I come
from a town whose main street
is bookended by the post

office at the top
& the market at the bottom.
I like to take my coffee

with a little cream
& sugar, & now usually
nurse it through the day.

I like to smooth the covers
after I get out of bed, just
for the pleasure of feeling

there could be a small, smooth
space later, between the day’s chaos
& the night’s hoped for oblivion.

“Sometimes, happiness is all we have left.” ~ Alberto Rios

I am trying to remember:
do I still know how dark

green curves open to a frill
on the backs of winged beans,

how pale streaks bloom
on long-bellied gourds

as if a child scribbled
on a rough piece of slate

with chalk? Under the old
grandmother’s window we

lined up empty soda bottles,
pouring water from the tap,

pushing crushed petals in
to mimic rose and turmeric.

I don’t know if there is a name
for the moment when a sundial’s blade

is wedged between noon and night;
I forget. And yet, decades after,

I remember how I grew still when a hand
not mine shaded the sun from my eyes

while the other hand made the road
buckle so it ribboned away and away.

[Etymology, gnomon: From Latin gnomon, from Ancient Greek γνώμων (gnōmōn, “indicator”), related to γιγνώσκω (gignōskō, “I know”) and γνῶσις (gnōsis, “knowledge”].