Monday, November 20, 2023


Four Monobons by Luisa A. Igloria




Until the end, the brain does what it can to figure out the narrative unfolding for the body. And so, alternately, she whimpers and talks to presences, demands her money or jewels back, announces she is leaving for the country; cries out from what she calls her prison cell. This thing called dying, it can be an unpredictable process: more than a few weeks, or only a couple of days. Did hers begin when the people she lived with sold off her marble end tables, fleeced money from her dwindling accounts; turned off her access to light and water, locked her in her room while they left to do whatever they called work? The tongues of shoes are tied up with laces. The lamps are muffled with shades. The space between the breast and the buttons of a shirt becomes a place for hiding morsels of bread. More muted refrains of cicadas leftover from summer scatter like husks on the ground. Every little point of radiance draws moths to their fate. 


They too glisten before they dwindle, taken by flame.




Two Stones  

In summer, even before all the dying, she was stricken with fear and grief. Already they were like twin stones she carried in her mouth. She was careful not to swallow them whole, also careful not to show so much of their bulge through each cheek. Out in the world, so much heat and light; so many people thronging to orchards to sample the tastes of fruit unburied from dark barrels of oak—how they swirled in the bottoms of tulip-shaped glasses, how they sent up strings of tiny beads reminding one of weddings and cake. But in her mouth, those two stones shifted from one side to the other— each smaller than a grape, but denser  than marble or a seed. Sometimes they pulsed like a heart, or quieted like boats tethered to a dock. She wondered what would happen if she spat them out into her hand, if she washed them with water and laid them on an altar to be blessed. After all, one can make an offering out of anything.


A space might open up enough to admit other shapes.






Walking out of a building toward the parking garage, a thought comes into my head. I hold it, a fully formed sentence, one with an intriguing subject, a convincing sound. But I run into someone I know who wants to talk about the difference between a maze and a labyrinth, or rather, about how he isn't convinced that only the labyrinth has one entrance and exit—for what is a garden if not an opportunity to explore forking paths? One to the cherry, one to the apple tree, one to the herb garden and the blasted yew. Birds of paradise peer out of the hedges like misplaced botanical specimens. Everything else is boxwood, ivy, or holly. But in the elaborate one-way-in-and-one-way-out construction, according to myth, a monster waits for someone to come and knit him a warm red sweater, to stay the winter months so they can drink hot toddies and play Cards Against Humanity or The Worst Case Scenario. I forget what I was thinking about, and cannot find a thread back to it. Something about a heart, a hearth, a central space. 


A chamber hidden in plain sight after the noise in the foliage quiets.




Dream Architecture


They dream me again, those tin-roof dreams sewn together with rain and calls of tree frogs. Alleyways look  bricked with brown rice cakes. At night, at closing time, restaurant workers throw bags of unsold food away though there are hungry urchins at every street corner. It might not be the end of hurricane season yet, but the vaulted skies are indifferent to our need for calendars. Dark leaves flap in the wind; they know not to be seduced by the celluloid blush at the edge of the sea. Do you hear how wings slice the air into ribbons, even as they lift?


Before any cathedral, first there is light buried in stone.





Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Caulbearer (Immigrant Writing Series Prize, Black Lawrence Press; forthcoming 2024), Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Co-Winner, 2019 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Prize), The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (2018), 12 other books, and 4 chapbooks. With Aileen Cassinetto and Jeremy S. Hoffman, she Co-edited Dear Human at the Edge of Time: Poems on Climate Change in the U.S. (Paloma Press, 2023), offered as a companion to the Fifth National Climate Assessment (NCA5). Originally from Baguio City, she makes her home in Norfolk VA where she is the Louis I. Jaffe and University Professor of English and Creative Writing at Old Dominion University’s MFA Creative Writing Program. She also leads workshops for and is a member of the board of The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk. Luisa is the 20th Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-22), Emerita. During her term, the Academy of American Poets awarded her a 2021 Poet Laureate Fellowship.

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