By rote, by ritual,

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

by sheer and boring repetition—
this is the way we learned our numbers,
letters: morning drills, multiplication

tables; and in the afternoons the parsing
of sentences and their parts. Long, chalked-out
trees of subjects, verbs, and their modifiers

growing sideways, across the blue-green
blackboard. Before the last bell rang
our release, a half hour of cursive

writing: a series of tight loops and coils
leaning right then left; then spelling
and vocabulary practice. And finally,

reading Mercator maps pulled down like color-
blocked shades across the board. I liked
how the teacher let us come close to inspect

the shapes of continents and islands
marked with latitudes and meridians;
how we measured the width of Greenland

or the Indian Ocean with our hands,
before returning to our seats to correct
our pencil drawings— How wonderful

to know that even as sun or rain beat on
the classroom windows, as surely as our erasers
rubbed spots on the paper thin, a gold-flecked

sandstorm whirled in the desert; and somewhere,
the first snow of the season had already
stencilled the landscape in white.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 29 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

For Sale

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Once, the kitchen was big enough for only one
table. Swollen hearts of the banana swung
their weight over the window; and in November,
first frost left prints or curled upon the breath,
then faded into white-tinted sky. Do you remember

the year they put the black pig in the untiled
downstairs bathroom? How it grunted through
the night, surely knowing its fate next day
beneath the avocado trees. The ones who come
to have a look, have only one requirement

in mind: turn-key. The wood is rich
and dark but the rooms old-fashioned, the windows
framed in splinters. Here are the beautiful lathe-
turned balusters leading up into unfinished space,
the light softened there by rough-hitched rafters,

leaking through in places with the rain. Every post
set into the foundation rests beside buried coin,
singed feather, spatter of blood. Nothing new smells
like woven cane, inlaid shell— history the taste
of an iron grille, the inside of a padlocked chest.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 28 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Todos los Santos

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

The gravestones are damp, shiny with recent rain.
Everyone we’ve ever loved sleeps beneath this ground,

smelling the grass, letting weather trickle into bones
that lie in their beds, broken rosaries wound through

what once were fingers clasped across the chest.
At their feet, pairs of good leather shoes, tightly

rolled blankets not yet riddled with holes.
In trouser pockets, soft bills, loose change.

A gold tooth that’s fallen into a circle of ash.
How long has it been like this? Soon, hundreds of

little flames flower atop white-washed tombs.
Moths in the branches sift smoke from their wings.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 26 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Once Again

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

The light around the body, said the poet, a field of energy that tethers it somehow to a world full of rushing sounds: a field of noise and bodies— as when you first walked by yourself to market in that little town so long ago, and nearly swooned from the smells of brine and fish guts, long pearled strips of sausage blotchy pink in their casings and courted by flies; and on the ground, the women clasping their knees and tending baskets of wilted greens; a world in actuality only the size of a teacup nestled between the hills, the man-made lake in the park a marvel with its pleasure boats and one-tiered fountain (the same your husband looked at in a postcard years later and said was the size of a duck pond); a world you thought impossibly unbounded, somehow without end, though you saw how sharply the silhouettes of cypress and pine clung to your field of vision as a trick of night before it descended over the scrim of rusted roofs; how odd to find that light even here on the sidewalk, in this park where they have trapped the golden koi in a shallow basin fringed with cattails; and even closer, in the cheap bronze of a cerveza negra bottle someone drank from, before carelessly throwing it away.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 25 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Monday’s News

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 23 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

The bits of broken plastic, a cellphone part, a crumpled bill:
evidence left in haste or panic on the sidewalk.

The neighbors peering out from behind their blinds.

The voice on the phone asking,
Shouldn’t you be telling this to the police?

The caller responding, I thought you were the police?

The flutter of a newspaper someone left on a bench;
the dogs sniffing under the bushes.

Crackle of radio static, news flash on who was caught—

including a twelve year old. The afternoon’s cheek
suddenly, intensely, desiring sleep.

Three croaks from overhead: ravens or crows?

Luisa A. Igloria
10 24 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Dear scarlet-flushed, hydraulic,

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 22 of 63 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Autumn 2011

 

banded muscle that’s caused this hammering in my chest and ears and brain, of course like all the neighbors I’m a nervous wreck but thankful for your still apparently rapid reflexes. Having gone upstairs to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, at first I didn’t hear it clearly, the sudden pounding on the door at nearly midnight, then louder, the sounds of screaming— woman? man?— on the walk outside, followed by flashing lights and the voices of cops yelling Put your hands up! Put your hands up! Now it’s all over the late night news— Foot patrols leading big dogs to sniff around in the bushes and in the mews, even a helicopter buzzing overhead, lights sweeping in arcs like wipers across a dark windshield. Reports are mixed— Drug bust, car chase; one caught, one still on the loose; or all of them now in jail. Your wild agitation diminishes, but never really the fear; and the sorrow as well for a world where no one opens windows to let in the night air anymore.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 23 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Shirtwaist Elegy

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

There is an ache like a shield across the place
where my heart should be, fleshy like a fist
or callused like fingers and embroidered

with floss. Needles track a path around its contours,
their swish adjusting as they push and retract.
See the crown of the oak burning, brighter

than a furnace at the factory window. Hear
the treadle’s slap, the blouses spool paler
than spring blossoms and thin as linen,

from under the hands of girls. Whipstitch and chain,
darts that gather the billows in. The shirt I’m wearing
is made in Bangladesh, Turkey, or the Philippines,

where clotheslines crisscross sky: sleeves and bodices
flail in salt-laced wind— weft of signatures whose
facing edges I’ll button and wear against my skin.

Luisa A. Igloria
10 22 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.

Landscape, with Night Sky Obscured by Street Lamps

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Here where we crane our necks, walking home
where yellow lights flood the little streets
and alleys in measured increments, neither
can the trimmed points of cypresses figure

where the constellations lie. The hunter
seems merely an old bedtime story: its belt
and quiver and bow, its prey too small
from this distance to see. And that river

of stars dividing the greater distance
between time and prophecy I’m sure
is milky, its edges tinted lilac
or cool blue; and the vessels

that pour and pour yet never reach
the pinnacle of thirst. What becomes
of them when the dark unsettles, when
the lion opens its maw and the bird

flies, trembling, back toward the sun?

Luisa A. Igloria
10 21 2011

In response to an entry from The Morning Porch.