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 What Is Left of Wings, I Ask (forthcoming, 2018 Center for the Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Prize, selected by 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. 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, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

When they teach us of our history,
they always begin with dates: never
before 1521, which is when the Portuguese
sailor reaches our shores, takes one look,
and freaks. Out come the flags and christening
oils, the cross with which to subdue the natives
showing too much inked skin, optic weaves,
dark elements, ores. Little does he know
he’ll be dead in under a month and a half:
spear finding quick the flaw in the armor.
Months later, Tenochtitlan falls and Cuauhtémoc
surrenders, also to the Spanish. Even then,
there are prophets predicting apocalypse:
the end of days is always coming soon
to a theatre near you. War, marauding,
hand to hand combat. Going rogue, biding
time in the forests: all of which
our forebears were always good at.


In response to Via Negativa: Civics.

old fashioned words unapologetic for the crispness of close consonants

and the first click in the finger joint after the needle’s steroid deposit

the slow breaths you coax as counterpoint to anxious thoughts at night

and the spinning echo of clothes tumbling in the dryer

the woody smell of rosemary next to sparse fringes of lavender

and felted caterwauling calls of barred owls

the pale clean stump where a camellia bush used to stand

and the underpattern of roots beneath the grass

a letter that wounds whenever it’s read

and a ransom that won’t ever be paid

the feeling you get looking up into fruiting branches

and the electric hum from cicadas’ tymbals as their torsos contort

peaches that drowned a brown sugar taste in the beer

and your fear of the season’s first slow-moving storms

the fat on the back of a slab of brisket

and the jar of bird chillies in a drawer

the clock on the mantel that never keeps the time

and the piles of small change you keep finding through the house

~ after “Flower Woman with Soft Piano,” Salvador Dali (1969)

If I could roll up my soul, bolt
of blue cloth under an arm; fallen

drape that crumples up then ends
in music— perhaps finally I’d

understand what it means to say
And time stood still. I can’t

remember when last my head erupted
in flowers, when a dream of ice

descended from the skies in foliate
shapes before melting and warming

into streams. Every day, it’s work
to try and widen the ledge on which

I stand. Every day, it’s work
to couple one hook to its eye, one

car to another, then send it off
in the right direction. I would like

to be unshackled from here, to lope
like a thing with young, supple legs

into a field without grids, even
without the accompaniment of music.

It’s long afterward, but still
you want what doesn’t exist anymore—

and so you light a votive, set it
on a leaf to float across the lake’s

dirty surface. Every crack in the pavement
is part of a letter penned in script,

its fissures just wide enough to admit
a trail of insects walking toward the ghosts

of bodies trapped in a cavern below.
They drink from a trickle of rainwater

falling into the basin. They save
a thimbleful of pee for that time no one

speaks of— Please, don’t tell them it’s
over. When you shred a dandelion’s slight

corona in your hand, don’t mention the sound
of buildings collapsing. Don’t tell them

the morgue has run out of sheets, the funeral
parlors have run out of candles and coffins.


In response to Via Negativa: Childhood memory.

anticipation, is nubbed spines
covering every inch of the jack-
fruit’s body: green armor

keeping the gold inside its
quarters— that’s what is meant
by inflorescence: all that heady

perfume repeating its singular
note through hallways of mirrors.
Lucky, the one that breaks

through without losing
itself. The one who comes
to understand time’s

illusion, how salt marries
ash, makes everything teeter
close to ripeness.

the gut that listens to each
clamor the body makes before
it even makes a sound—

So the nerves frill out
like wings, receptive to
the smallest rumor in the air:
trouble, mostly. But also,

the quieter waves that emanate
from joy, though they might seem
too rare. I’ve had a lifetime
of instruction, turning

my face to any coming wind.
Another name for it is mother;
in due time it finds
its twin in daughter.

That sense finds kin in any
particle that darkens rapidly
inside the hours: cloud, wave,
storm; each slip of moss

that sandals our feet as we run
across the stones, beguiled
by fruit gold-chalked, tumbled
from indifferent trees.

It may be late for me, but I
have only wished for you that
rupture, that gap between
arrival and threshold.

In summer, you feel more keenly
the light that stays afloat late

above the canopy; that opens early
like a window shade pinned back

by a hand that wants to push you
wholly into the day. Inside a terra

cotta dish, the ashy end of a coil
of citronella. On the deck, two

planks of wood buckling away
from their warped frame. A block

away, the river’s throat swells
with rumors of cicadas in the trees,

their wings drumming up another cloud
of heat. Everything’s one or another

version of your restlessness, of that
fever in your bones that sets a cabinet

of worry-gears clicking— o lucky
spider that merely sifts through frets

in its web, that tamps and beds a wayward
body as if it were a gift to the gods.

You try to flex your thumb, make a circle
with your index finger, but it doesn’t

listen. Everything works on the left, but
something is stuck on the right. The hand

doctor pulls out a diagram describing
the arrangement of tendons: like

passenger cars on a train. Pulleys
allow for the ease with which they

can glide forward and back on the tracks.
Something is stuck in your thumb’s pulley

system, causing pain that radiates
from the hinge and tenderness at the base.

It hasn’t gone away, despite the different
kinds of salves friends have recommended.

When you hold a pen, your grip is awkward;
and marking student papers or signing

your name is like pushing an iron bar through
dry soil. And that train? It wants so badly

to leave the station, to climb up those hills.
Perhaps a masked man is holding the engineer

hostage, forefinger resting on the trigger.
What he wants exactly, no one can figure out.

Once I read a story about the poet Eduardo
Galeano’s wife Helena: how she dreamt of being

in an airport, along with everyone else
carrying the pillows on which they’d lain

their heads the night before— passing through
the screening machines, they’re purged of all

traces of dreams that might have leaked
into them, for fear they might harbor

subversive material. Can you imagine each
slip-covered mound of cotton or memory foam,

buckwheat, feather or down, moving on conveyor
belts under high-wattage light? TSA agents

no longer care if your carry-on bag of toiletries
exceeds 3 liquid oz. They don’t bother to wave

those electromagnetic wands down your arms
and legs or in the area of your crotch.

It’s kind of like a giant laundromat— lines
of unacceptable matter processed for bleaching

before being tossed out the other end:
colorless, odorless, blank as amnesia.

Whoever penned Ecclesiastes 3:1 must not
have had a mortgage and an older house.

Must never have had to take care of repairs!
is what I think as I hunt for Nextdoor

recommendations of plumbers, as I call around
for estimates and check the prices on lumber

and siding. To everything there is a season
is what it says: a time for this and a time

for that, for the orderly and equitable march
of seasons as well as their bloom and fade.

The stalk comes up after the seed, the flood
disappears into the plain. And the cost of fixing

what’s damaged shouldn’t amount to another
disaster, should it? O let this not be the time

for the hot water to go out just as the deck umbrella
snaps almost cleanly in half in a freak wind storm,

at the same time you find a snarling nest
of coons burrowed in the shed’s rotting wood

when you go to retrieve the ladder. Let the broken
fence palings keep from falling down into the service

road, let the neighbors’ dogs poop regularly
somewhere other than the edge of the footpath

where you come and go. Look up at the sky if
you can, past the greenish cast on windows and walls

in need of power washing; at the flowers’ hot
and thirsty faces, sending out semaphores of entreaty.