POETRY: ISSUE #16

Image from Dancers by the Sea, Oil Paint series by Allison Merriweather, Mud Season Review
*Image: “Dancers By the Sea” by Allison Merriweather, 9″ x 12″ Oil on Paper

 

Luisa A. Igloria

Featured Poet

Netsuke

How many worlds could fit into a leather pouch, strung
through cord and looped around the waist? Wood

or ivory, horn or bone–antlers and hooves,
miniature wings and fins, even the tiny pulleys

that hoist these breakable joints. The smell
of trees is sharp from the balcony. I love

to slide open windows, doors; to open things
with lids. When my nose bled nearly every day

for a year, the elders broke an egg into water;
they cast rice grains to read upon its membrane,

then wove me a secret name. They thatched
its syllables to fleece, embroidered it on all

the towels. Like a novice, I wore its jangly shape
on my stick arms and legs. I read today of how

a name can be a kind of homework in this life—
for instance, the Buddha saying “Sakyadhita.”

If I had known, I might have listened harder
for the creaking of doves’ wings.

After last night’s rain, the snow fits
each dip and hummock more tightly:

an old garment I can’t bear to give away—
worn smooth, softer now, but shrunk in the wash.

 

Morning, Aperture

In the meadow, one bent head of grass, frail
as a woman approaching the long afternoon
of her years.

I used to watch my narrow-
waisted mother sit on the edge of the bed
after her bath, and count the rosary
beads down her spine.

Mystery, what is this image
you have brought, thin as a wafer
slipped through the window’s hinge?

She says: I am old,
I am a woman living
alone in a house of two floors,
four rooms, seven beds.

A cloud of scent
surrounded her after her bath:
nimbus of talcum, her own signature
of breath as she leaned to kiss me.

 

Magnificat

Let us praise, they said. And so we should:
Let us praise the wood that was saved

from the house, and the stones that we used
for the new kitchen floor. Let us praise

the walls which leaked with the fury
of hurricanes yet kept us dry

where we huddled in the middle of the room.
Let us praise the wildness of the garden

which gave us mint to fragrance our hands,
and branches from which to hang wet clothes.

Let us praise the nights that were strung
with curfews, and the hiding places

that we found in them for fugitives
and friends. Let us praise the ones

who left, even of their own volition;
and the hearts that must have suffered

from the myriad difficulties of choice.
Let us praise how we witnessed a rash

of flowers open one by one along the broken
fence, even as the sea or heaving earth

took those we loved. And let us praise
the clapper and the hollow gong both pain

and joy have made of our insides, how
forever we will swing this way in the wind.

 

"Lilith" by Allison Merriweather, 9" x 12" Oil on Paper, Mud Season Review

“Lilith” by Allison Merriweather, 9″ x 12″ Oil on Paper

Huayruro

Tiny seed, tintoria
shiny as if from a vat
of paint— which minor
deity’s forehead
have you fallen out of
just so I can twirl you
between finger and thumb,
string you on a linen cord
as talisman? Your one
dark eye is smaller
than the orb of phosphor
that coats a match, even
after it strikes a surface,
bursts into flame, then
dwindles into a hard
stub of ash.

 

Manunggul Jar

(Manunggul Cave, Palawan; late Neolithic)

Someone is loosing the rope
that tethered our boat

to the pier. Here we are, easing
forward into the fog, into the cold

that seems to have gotten colder.
We’ll pass the shuttered town,

we’ll slip into the currents
blue with the ink of unborn stars.

We’ll love them no less, no more,
even as the water swirls, changing

from jade to milk. The world we enter
then leave is round as the bowl of our

desires, and here the word for horizon
is the same as faithfulness: invisible

rudder our hands have always held,
even as now we cross our arms

across our chests, preparing
to travel farther, deeper.

Sea of Dreams

The ferryman came and whispered
in my ear, asking if I would like
to visit that town I might not ever
see again but in my dreams—

I said Is that your first question?
I knew no one could gain passage
without a token— And he laughed,
pointing to the grey hollow between

his shoulders, saying Come, sister;
in the trees the leaves are lit up just
like lanterns, and your face is a tarot
that still points all ways but one.

Luisa A. Igloria

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015), Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, and listens to tango music.

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