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Sample Poems by Luisa A. Igloria


Regarding History

A pair of trees on one side of the walk, leaning
now into the wind in a stance we’d call involuntary—
I can see them from the kitchen window, as I take meat
out of the oven and hold my palms above the crust, darkened
with burnt sugar. Nailed with cloves, small earth of flesh
still smoldering from its furnace. In truth I want to take it
into the garden and bury it in soil. There are times
I grow weary of coaxing music from silence, silence
from the circularity of logic, logic from the artifact.
Then, the possibilities of sunlight are less attractive
than baying at the moon. I want to take your face
in my hands, grow sweet from what it tells, tend
how it leans and turns, trellis or vine of morning-glory.
I wish for limbs pared to muscle, to climb away from
chance and all its missed appointments, its half-drunk
cups of coffee. Tell me what I’ll find, in this
early period at the beginning of a century.
Tell me what I’ll find, stumbling into a boat
and pushing off into the year’s last dark hours.


 Dialogue with the Body

                     In the Philippine Cordillera, ceremonies for the dead
                    could last as long as a month.
    
This is the star
spread, a hexagram
of white cards on the jute
pillow; where the cords are frayed,
a dandelion’s tufted head: crowned
spore, coil of hair loosened
by cancer or insistent tug
of fingers. Shy lilt of tea
leaves in the lifted cup, dust
motes heavy and gilded with
knowledge though it is only
light. Here is the first knot,
a place where the lines can begin,
refuting the vacuum of empty
space. A shape rises out of darkness,
settles like a sheet of precious metal
beaten thin to cover the nose-bridge,
the fine bones of the face. I could proceed,
fanning open the cards whose faces
glimmer with omens: swords, pentacles,
cups filling with blood or wine, the curled    
horns of a ram flared open like ears
or announcing trumpets. In the old days
they sat the dead, wrapped in finery
and blankets, for months on the front
steps. There was no way to enter
or exit the house without growing to love
its leathery shape, the smell of burning
herbs and smoke soaking it and all
flesh within distance; laundry
drying on the fence, the papery
skin of roots pulled up from earth
curling away from the knife
and boiled to a sweet, clear white
in broth. The bones’ rich marrow
floats in yellow boats to the lips.
This is the foyer where the body,
held fast by offerings, holds court;
where the soul comes to visit, dipping
a hand into a dish of burnt meats
and tasting the water sweetened
with rice. The shoulders resting on the door-
posts shrivel like the blue skins of the sweet
pea flower. From inside, looking at that
outline sitting guard so patiently, the door
can never be completely sealed again.
The sky leaks its light around the body,
embalming it in colors of bird feather;
fluid, fossil, nautilus of rooms opening
and folding close, reciting the body’s
tropes—here are husks of bone, airy
bracelets of skin, the cinnamon-dusted
clavicle where my tongue loved to linger.
I would keep this body longer
but it buries itself in limestone
or hangs itself from cliffs. So
I touch doorknobs with the same
reverence I hold for wrists, the joints
of fingers and knees, the cleft between
the thighs, all the body’s hinges
and what they know—the mountains
rounded like kneecaps or swelled
like the ankles’ twin domes,
breakable where the light comes
as through a shroud of paper.


South

is the destination where all losses
go to take up a different existence,

just as in every family there is a wayward
uncle or cousin, brother or grandfather,

the one they call a black sheep, the one who’s carried
a hundred and one variations of the names idiot

or good-for-nothing coiled like a rope
through his own, which everyone has, not

surprisingly, forgotten. He wakes one morning
with songs of sea-gypsies curling into his ear;

in his mind, the smell of pineapples grown
ripe in the sun, a plantation of green tufts crowning

the wilderness that once was his life. He’s heard
stories of deep-sea divers down south—

young boys hurtling naked, hundreds of feet
into the foam, nothing but daggers held between

their teeth.  The boat from which they leap
becomes a flickering shadow between the water

and the sun, between the sun and the prize
that hides like luck in the oyster bed, a pearl

of transformation to make sultans out of fishermen’s
sons. What does it matter that his ears explode

from the descent, that the mouth can hold
only so many measures of breath? Returning

to the surface, afterwards he’ll shave off all
his hair or grow a beard, convert to a new religion,

make a vow to let no meat pass his lips, live
the remainder of his days in a house on stilts,
 
rocking on water. Years later, walking
abroad in a foreign marketplace, at last

he will have become a stranger, someone other
than who he has always been; only for the briefest

moment will people stare, wondering where it is
they might have seen him before.