3 Poems by Luisa A. Igloria

21 March 2010
3 Poems by Luisa A. Igloria

The other country, she can still sometimes see
     clear as a new postage stamp held slant against window-
light. The old grandmother remembers the sea-passage,

     fields where they burned grass ragged and smoked out
small skulls in the underbrush. Rain plumped the fruit
     as they hungered under tin roofs and fed

their bets to the fire. Sometimes they trekked
     through red earth, past cane fields to the beach, if only
to watch the moon grow flagrant, saying so little

     it was a silence she came to mistake for habit—
light's silver coin, surely being offered and not merely held
     over the water, inscrutable

at their feet. More days now she feels she's still paying
     for moments she's ever betrayed her desires,
though there is no point calculating how much

     time is left, what else could be worth
wanting. Listen, she says: in this life, loss is that so-called
     ornament scaling the fences heavy with orchids and bougainvillea.

Beware its fluorescent and tropical husk, wrinkled
     as a bitter gourd's; its seed, only another body soon
buried in earth, waiting for the next hundred years.

Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang

Artifacts of war: small bronze cannons,
     rusted bayonets. In the city’s financial district,
one monument to the generalissima dressed in trousers. She is

La Loba Negra, dark bitch, fugitive, she-wolf
     baying in the hills of Abra
where she made a bonfire of her widow’s weeds.

So I must correct the image I have
     always had of her, or more precisely
of her belled skirts swinging in dry wind. Hung

like a man. And on the avenues, traffic
     surges and stalls, punching forward.
The gleaming metal fenders inches apart,
     curved like flanges in a suit of armor.

Note: Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang, or Gabriela Silang, was a general and a heroine of the grassroots-led Philippine Revolution against Spain in the late 1800s. When her husband Diego Silang was killed, she took over her husband’s army and continued in the resistance against the Spanish colonial government. Along with her troops, she was captured and hung in the public square. The Filipina solidarity movement Gabriela is named in her honor.

(first published in JUAN LUNA’S REVOLVER by Luisa A. Igloria; University of Notre Dame Press, 2009 / 2009 Ermest Sandeen Prize in Poetry)

The scent of camphor strays across a hedge
     and I am back on Mabini, where as a child

I stared at man-roots growing filaments, fluid-filled mason jars
     next to powders ground from deer horn and dried seahorses.

It wasn’t till later that I’d read of revolutionaries
     and blood compacts, an island traded for a hat,

the annual parade of caravelles and galleons
     setting sail for Spanish ports, their holds filled

with copra and anise, barrels steeped with stolen
     fragrances, bales of peppercorn and laurel. The dead

swim back and forth alongside these vessels, brown-skinned
     sailors and their sad Marias, throwing cameos

on black ribbons at the moon. The dead,
     not Magellan, circumnavigate the world,

jump ship somewhere near Louisiana, build houses
     on stilts. The dead are magnetized by the call of water.

The dead peer through bedroom curtains, including
     Grandmother, half-breed who wants to tame

your tongue and braid your india hair tighter than
     that careless peasant bun. Infidel, will you return to the house

that holds the ghosts of your forbears? I’ll look for the town of Zafra,
     I’ll look for the villages of San Fernando and San Juan,

for a yellow house where the statue of San Vicente
     sits at the foot of El Sagrado Corazon, his blood

entwined with roses. I’ll close my eyes and imagine
     ceilings fed with rain, where every night

mold-stippled constellations emerge, islands too
     insignificant for any maps save those in our vagabond hearts.

LUISA A. IGLORIA is a poet and associate professor at Old Dominion University, where she currently directs the MFA Creative Writing Program. Originally from Baguio City, she is the author of JUAN LUNA'S REVOLVER (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, University of Notre Dame Press), TRILL & MORDENT (WordTech Editions 2005), and 8 other books. Visit her at www.luisaigloria.com.
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