Ciphers

This entry is part 1 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

“The spleen is 1″ by 3″ by 5″, weighs approximately 7 oz, and lies between the 9th and 11th ribs on the left hand side.” ~ Wikipedia

*

“Falsely, the mortal part we blame
Or our depressed, and pond’rous frame…”
~ Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “The Spleen” (1709)

 

Should I hollow out one more secret
space beneath the swarm of organs

pumping out their rhythms, should I
carve a door under the floating disks

of threaded bone that ladder up
the spine— What if I should find,

after all, that the liver’s field
of indigo blooms with asterisks

on the machine? And what if the spleen’s
lopsided house is sown with husks

that tumbled, crumbling from the eaves
above? And what if the kidneys

spread their wings like butterflies
and wrote a silver question mark?

Fireflies glint like signals along a street
lined with magnolias— dusky but for their

faint edge of white, their creamy perfumes
heavy in the heat of this first summer night.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Preces

This entry is part 2 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

How do you do it, I want to ask the mothers gathered at the table, nearly identical in silk hose, cool, marbled jewels at their throats— but I would probably be accused of being over-earnest, of making too much out of nothing. The secret’s in the shortening, someone offers. Don’t overwork it, says another; have some more pie, the blueberries are especially sweet this season. Who notices the butterfly that seems to keep changing sizes, that turns out to be two butterflies among the ivy? Someone is delighted. Someone says How lovely, how sort of like a tortoise-shell hair ornament! I need a miracle, or something close to one; if this is a sign, that one wing falling away to unmask the other, I’m willing to grasp at it. I’ll bow my head, stand very still and wait for the slightest dusting of pollen on my lashes. I’ll keep wakeful watch through the night, whisper shreds of prayers I can still remember. You may not hear them, but I want to believe they’re there: imperceptible currents traced by a banded wing, orange and red against a field of dark black.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Rest Stop

This entry is part 3 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

Dear one, you in that slouchy, shoulder-baring top and skimpy shorts, me in my work shirt and jeans— here we are at a pause, hitch-hiking through the Pacific coastline of our lives. I glance in your direction every now and then to watch the nonchalant way you hold up a thumb in that universal gesture that says I don’t care, just get me outta here. I can understand that, because even at my age, there are times I don’t know where I want to be either; or anymore. Some dreams still come back from a similar time in my youth: me sweating in sheets and tossing in bed, or wanting to swing an arm out in anger but finding that I can’t move. Or working the throat toward a catapult of sound, only to discover my mouth taped shut. Oh I wanted so bad to get to that cool and clear, that threshold where the woods stopped and the rest of the vibrant world began. To tell you the truth, I can hardly remember how I got here. Only that for every sonofabitch, there have been more that were kind; for every wrong turn, there have been way stations with at least a bench or a working bathroom, a vending machine. And all this walking and wandering has made me tired, but let me not forget to say thank you—even to whatever might have led me here by mistake.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Presentiment

This entry is part 4 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

The gauze of
dragonflies
along the river’s
edge: for now,
the only footnotes
to urgent bulletins
on sea-level rise.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Ghazal, Between the Lines

This entry is part 5 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

The gap, the space, the state of neither here nor there, the hazy interval that
hasn’t quite revealed what it contains: it makes you want to read between the lines.

A bridge suspends across two spans of earth: a flimsy thing, woven of rope and slats
that rattle when we walk. We do not need to peer too closely between these lines.

Space yawns beneath, drops deep from blue into yet more blue. Behind, perhaps
the generosity of sand; ahead, the unparsed trees to read between the lines.

But I grow weary of traveling to and fro, of leveling the way then finding it un-
tenable when I’ve turned around. Hard work: deciphering between the lines.

How hard is it to understand what the heart really wants? The body’s feathered
with nostalgic veins resembling lines. Listen hard, read between each line.

No, the butterfly exploring your palm with its proboscis isn’t necessarily
a symbol for anything else. You cannot read too much between the lines.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Ghazal, Beaded with Rain

This entry is part 6 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

Forms and strictures, rules. Fill in the blanks, shade in the bubbles, color inside
the lines. For instance, use green for this picture of a lizard beaded with rain.

Dry and veined, presaging October: maple leaves cover one side of the porch.
Dull browns, yellows, reds— a leafy blizzard in June, unbeaded with rain.

In art class, one of the girls from Peru is blind in one eye. She’s come to America
to see the doctor wizards; and by summer’s end, a whole windshield beaded with rain.

Which chef was being interviewed on the radio this morning? A woman’s voice woke me—
she spoke of being excited by caramelized gizzards; of summer picnics beaded with rain.

Nearly unbearable heat today. And night air thicker than butter; no relief from water
or cricket sounds— But what can you expect? Not even a lizard, back beaded with rain.

Scorched earth smell, sky shimmering like the surface of a lake or a mirage. Dementor-
like, a buzzard circles overhead. Not one poetic prickle, no beaded sound of rain.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Night Heron, Ascending

This entry is part 7 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

Through the window by my desk, I see a poem light in the branches
of a tree. It roosts awhile, then leaves— Night heron, ascending.

My friend thinks it an omen for something good and rare. I regard the question
mark of its neck and back, its feathered cap streaked with pale saffron, ascending.

Last season’s big storm flung a nest with young herons to the ground.
Perhaps this is one of them, out of the rhododendrons ascending.

In The Conference of The Birds, what fate befalls it as the flock undertakes
the journey? A blur past oak, ash, and willow; past reddened crags, ascending.

From that height, boats are specks on the water, and we, even smaller.
Which dark craft at the river’s mouth is Charon’s, swiftly descending?

In this summer light, some things look struck by gold: mythic, emblematic.
Portentous spirit, wings outlined with neon— tell me of ascending.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Derecho Ghazal

This entry is part 8 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

Derecho, Sp., adverb: straight ahead or in a straight line

 

Near the end of his life, incontinence had become a problem for my father. Out
with the driver one day, he gripped the seat back and rasped, Derecho, derecho!

What he meant was, Drive back home, straightaway— and our driver had the delicadeza
to turn around, never once making a comment on fluids he passed: no stays, derecho.

Early on, in Geometry, that’s what we’re taught: the shortest distance between two
points is a straight line: chalked stripes, taut strings of floss: derecho.

Do you know the tailor’s trick of a string wrapped around your wrist? Doubled twice,
it gives you the circumference of the neck. Plumb line in the body’s grasp, derecho.

In the trees, some raucous wrens engage in a kind of relay: touching bills,
passing a winged morsel. How will they share such a small repast, derecho?

At the clinic, a woman flings a chart to the floor and sobs. The doctor interjects,
but Don’t beat around the bush; give it to me straight, she gasps: derecho.

All along the southern corridor, people are picking up debris from the storm. A dark
roll of violent wind, they recount. Hail. Hundred year old oaks tossed by the derecho.

We cleaned him up, hosed down the seats in the car. I coaxed socks over his ankles.
All doors open to the wind, the body’s hinges unloosed at the very last: derecho.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Punctuation

This entry is part 9 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

The house grows silent, but windows
pulse, containing sound. Lights
flicker on, off: questions
without cease, day and night.

In the middle of a sentence,
the hum of an insect interrupts.
Every bright song is sewn
to its darker inversion.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

Mid-year Ghazal

This entry is part 9 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012

 

Streets and parks, surprisingly empty this fourth of July— heat index past the hundreds,
humidity. Later in the cool of evening, crowds will watch fireworks at nine o’clock.

Nights wrapped in somnolent heat: the mind wanders familiar terrain— Watching
those I love in pain is suffering’s keenest dirk. And I can’t turn back the clock.

Voluptuous in their blue-purple spill: wisteria and lilacs among trellises here,
Neelakurinji carpeting the Western Ghats… I’d shirk a day of work just to tend these clocks.

But mostly I plow through each day’s heft and mystery, plant one foot before the other.
Anxious, trembling, the heart’s a poorly paid clerk, racing against the clock.

There’s never enough coal in the grate, never enough heat; too meagre resources
to bankroll dreams. I’m no longer that young turk unfazed by the dictum of clocks.

See the river’s face soften at twilight— Oil from passing boats has stippled its waters
with metallic sheen. Let’s you and I walk before nightfall’s murk, ignoring the clock.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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 (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, knits, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.