Luisa A. Igloria


What I Don't Tell My Children about My Hometown

[after Kristin Naca]

I don't tell lies. Memory's more
elusive than truth. So I say,
the trees in the backyard rained avocados,
and the scent of ginger flowers
could make you tipsy. And it's true.
Rain water collected in tin drums.
Bath water heated in an old kettle
on a stove lit by gas-blue flames. As a child,
I lay down for naps in the laundry room
and woke to my uncle’s hand
digging under the sheets. The windows
had grilles; they scrolled shut as secrets.
A tapestry of St. Cecilia hung
above the piano, her eyes averted
to the ceiling. How to unlearn
the silence of those eaves?
For years the elders thought I
was the lucky one, the child
unsprung from heaven. Mine
was the hand that plucked
fish bones from the throats of guests,
choking at the table. Which
of mother’s friends walked one day
into the surf? Nightly I comb my hair
for cartilage. The stories don’t end but we
snap off the ends that jangle.
To this day I cannot call him uncle.
To this day when someone says pine
or poinsettia, I think of resinous sap,
of voices that bloom then clot
at the end of a broken-off branch.




Last Words


It’s not so much she didn’t have
the means to fly the distance, nor that she
couldn’t take her place among the rows
of relatives in mourning clothes who’d borne,
long before the moment when they lifted
the casket from its rollers,
the burden of their day to day.

It’s not so much that she’d pursued her own
particular afflictions alone and in another world;
it’s more perhaps the call about a month before
her mother’s death— the phone chiming faint
but urgent from two doors down the hall,
summoning her from sleep near dawn as though
the crossing were already being made.


The shadowed eyes are pulling inward
and away from all they used to know.
Far from here a river purples in the shallows,
thinning air to mist. Now light as a plank
of balsa, the ailing body rests amid the heavy
furniture whose surfaces the knotted hands
have oiled and polished into musk.

When she cradles the receiver in her palm,
she hears her mother’s voice name her
whom she could never name so openly
while in this life; instead of blessing or release,
the emptiness or overflowing urgency
of words the mouth can hardly shape
when it can no longer speak.





Each day, light returns the hours in the borrowed house
with polished floors, with furniture hewn of Spanish wood
and paintings of little villages where the woman dressed
in a black skirt and matching kerchief is always walking home.
I envy how the woman never looks back at the dusty road behind her,
never turns her face to the messages scratched by children barefoot
in the dirt, at the white-washed fences and the flea-bitten dogs tied
to their posts. She’ll step across the threshold and come indoors,
where shadows are only shadows that never ask why the light gives
and takes away. How can she so simply and without rancor lay the plate
on the table, the bread by the knife, her head on the pillow at night?
How the stars glitter like salt and whiten like knuckles
clasped in prayer. How the wind picks up speed over the plains,
saying no one’s name, returning the same way it came.




Luisa A. Igloria is the author of JUAN LUNA'S REVOLVER (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame), TRILL & MORDENT (WordTech Editions, 2005), and 8 other books. Luisa has degrees from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she was a Fulbright Fellow from 1992-1995. She teaches on the faculty of Old Dominion University, where she directs the MFA Creative Writing Program. She keeps her radar tuned for cool lizard sightings. Luisa's website is; lately, she has been blogging at, and writing a poem a day at Dave Bonta's The Morning Porch site; then, Dave archives these at Via Negativa.