November 11, 2009

Luisa Igloria


Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric;
out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.
—W.B. Yeats

In a magazine review I learn that horizon note
is the name of the hum that drones through some
types of Indian music like a very large bee
or the engine of a car idling in the driveway,

a faint line in the distance that suggests
some destination for lost and wayward notes
when they are tired of cycling from one
variation to another. Today,

the syllable om vibrates a few octaves
lower, so it blurs into the blue
rubber band a boy on his bike pulls back
between the v of a broken-off branch

to aim at something in the trees.
When the stone meets its target,
the feathered body only a little larger than
a tamarind pod plummets out of the leaves

to land on the ground, where its short life
will begin to decompose in the heat and rain.
The moment could be almost cinematic
except there is no epiphany: just a boy

turning the small casualty over
with his shoe before pedaling away
into the ennui of his own life.
Perhaps I am mistaken and the boy

has feelings, so this act of indiscriminate
animal cruelty is nothing but youthful folly,
nothing he brooded on darkly for days. Perhaps
I am merely feeling unkind and full of remorse,

remembering another time years ago
when I turned at the garden gate to face
the man bent on marrying me. I was
sixteen. The sun, nearly gone

at the horizon, marked everything
with copper. I could almost believe I was
meant for something greater than this.
Two years later, I married him.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets


Luisa Igloria: “I’d never been in a creative writing workshop until I was thirty and in the first year of the doctoral program at University of Illinois at Chicago. Before that I pretty much worked on my own, sharing and reading work with a handful of friends who also wrote, and reading as much poetry as I could get my hands on. Now I make my permanent residence in America, and facilitate poetry workshops (I’m on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia). What I want to tell my students is that poetry is the line we need to keep open because it connects us to what’s not yet completely broken in or domesticated. I like how it keeps a restlessness alive in me.” (website)

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October 22, 2009

Vince Gotera


On the Avenue of the Americas,
at noon two weeks ago Tuesday, a nun
paced the grimy concrete, robed in black,
a starched, white veil framing her stunning face,
one-in-a-million supermodel cheekbones.

Fifth grade, St. Agnes School, we boys bet on
whether Sister Helen had hair beneath
her wimple. Blonde? Redhead? A pageboy cut?
Fishnets under her floor-length skirt? She shone
in daydreams: rosary beads against nude skin.

Today, my six-year-old son wriggled under
the deck, a crawl space half-lit by thin slits
of sky between planks. The yellow pencil
he had dropped, a long-lost fork, an ancient
pack of bubble gum—pushed up through the cracks.

Near Manila, my father in fifth grade
would plead some urgency—bathroom break?
dizziness?—to get himself out of class,
then shimmy underneath just such a floor,
gaps between boards to let in cool river air

for Miss Persephone Burke of Nebraska,
a Thomasite teacher. Frilly white blouse,
red belt, navy blue skirt sweeping the floor.
For a marvelous prank and bragging rights,
he would hide a slim, yard-long bamboo cane

with a small pyramid of Wrigley’s gum
panhandled from American soldiers.
Giggling to himself, he would chew and chew
until a hearty glob perched on the end
of the rod. Crouching directly below

Miss Burke, he’d reach up gingerly and stick
the wad into her underclothes. A boy
straining after what he could not have,
joy and bliss forever beyond his grasp:
America, Lady Liberty, the stars.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

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October 2, 2009

Amanda Blue Gotera


When things have bloomed, my mother
teaches me to hunt out the dead
blossoms that are no longer veined
and furled open but coiled dryly
over floret and anther, delicate threads
in withered prayer.

Daughters learn the ritual twist of neck
on stem, how easily a pattern
can be broken. They learn to tear
from the seam, to expose green
and play the trick so each may partake
a little longer in the nectarine pages
of lily, of stamen, of every sweet thing.

You must pluck our papery
skins before we go to seed,
before we repeat ourselves completely.
Partial helix. Idle spindle. We do not
wholly fill our rhythms. Instead
we must don our lip-thin petals again
and again, shed our weathered slips or else
bear that promised tithe.

We come apart and apart
and relive the same season
the same false spring.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

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September 29, 2009

Joan Dy


For a year, my father killed turtles.
During the summer, he and his friends
waited for them to bank on the beach

at night like small, shipwrecked vessels.
Dressed in damp linen and old sandals,
they smoked cigarettes under the cliffs

until a turtle emerged from the white surf
—see how the carapace flickers
in the moonlight, a blazing iron shell.

They do not wait for her
to dig her nest, deposit
eggs into the black sand.

They had seen that all before as children,
watching these mothers return
to their birthplace.

My father shines a lantern
on her, hind legs kicking up
showers of silt as four of them take

shovels to each flipper, tumbling her backwards
onto her shell, the burrow half finished.
A boy knifes her cleanly in the chest,

elastic belly swollen with eggs,
the skin white and moist like a cut pear.
They scoop out her eggs with rough hands.

The empty cavity flexes as they begin
to flay her. Tomorrow, the eggs will be sold
to the grocer. Her body will be used for supper.

He’s told me this story every year, since I can remember.
Although the story sometimes changes, he is never
the one with the knife. He merely holds the lantern.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005
Tribute to Filipino Poets

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September 22, 2009

Nick Carbó


In the old days the Blaans believed
that a man could not be told apart
from a woman. The word for man

and woman was not yet known
and there was no father or mother
either, there was just one parent.

Each individual had a penis
and a vagina and these were placed
on each knee. The God Tasu Weh

was the inventor of this being
and he was very proud of his design.
One day the God Fiu Weh saw

that the individuals stopped working
in the fields, stopped cooking
for supper, stopped caring

for the chickens and the pigs.
Fiu Weh noticed that all of them
were too busy having sexual

intercourse with themselves.
They were so enthralled and throbbing
that they could hardly walk or run

away from a python about to devour
their legs. Fiu Weh went to Tasu Weh
and told him that an individual

should have one penis and another
just a vagina. Tasu Weh was
stubborn and said, “If that’s the kind

of people you want to make,
go ahead, I’ll keep mine.”
These days when you see

a man slipping his penis
between a woman’s legs
she tries to bring

her knees together behind
the man’s back because she is
trying to double her pleasure.

from Rattle #24, Winter 2005

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