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In the Poet's Spotlight for January 2007:  Luisa A. Igloria
This month's Spotlight also features the poems of Natalie Diaz, one of Luisa Igloria's outstanding poetry students.

Luisa A. Igloria (previously published as Maria Luisa Aguilar-Cariño) is an Associate Professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program and Department of English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.  Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Crab Orchard Review, The Missouri Review, Poetry East, Smartish Pace, The Asian Pacific American Journal, and TriQuarterly.  Various national and international literary awards include the 2006 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize (Crab Orchard Review); the 2006 Stephen Dunn Award for Poetry; Finalist for the 2005 George Bogin Memorial Award for Poetry (Poetry Society of America); the 2004 Fugue Poetry Prize; a 2003 partial fellowship to the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg; two Pushcart Prize nominations; and the 1998 George Kent Award for Poetry.  Originally from Baguio City in the Philippines, Luisa is an eleven-time recipient of the Philippines’ highest literary distinction:  the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in three genres (poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction).   She has published nine  books including ENCANTO (Anvil, 2004),  IN THE GARDEN OF THE THREE ISLANDS (Moyer Bell/Asphodel, 1995), and most recently TRILL & MORDENT (WordTech Editions, fall 2005; Runner-up, 2004 Editions Prize). 

Index of Igloria's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title


Natalie Diaz, student of Luisa Igloria,  was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California.  After receiving her B.A. degree, she played professional basketball in Austria, Turkey, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.  She is currently pursuing her MFA degree in poetry and fiction at Old Dominion University.  Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the North American Review (Honorable Mention--The James Hearst Poetry Prize), the Southeast Review (Finalist--Southeast Review Poetry Prize), Pearl Magazine, and Touchstone.  She was also Finalist in the New Letters Fiction Contest.

Index of Diaz's Poems: Scroll down or click on Poem Title

Poems of Luisa A. Igloria (below)

From TRILL & MORDENT (WordTech Editions, 2005)—




                Tarantism was an obscure illness which was epidemic in southern Italy

                between the 15th and 17th centuries. It manifested itself in melancholy

                and an overwhelming desire to dance. It was popularly believed

                to be caused by the bite of the tarantula.



I was trying to explain whirling

dervishes in my class the other week,

how what they do is like hurling


the body across a chasm, in hopes

they can leave it behind.  Feverish, jerking

spasms work to loosen the ropes


for the ascent to rapture.  Perhaps the attendant clattering

in the ears is the sound of the bones grown limber;

of stays, hooks-and-eyes snapped asunder.  Describing


what “Stairway to Heaven” meant in a radio interview,

Robert Plant sounded more like a mystic than the aging

lead singer of Led Zeppelin: “We sought a new


relationship to nature”— to be lifted away from this composting

life.  Sometimes the world seems like a giant spider and we,

the victims lightly garlanded across its abdomen, ticking


blindly till a voice calls out our number.  I wonder,

even at curtains wouldn’t it be better to go dancing,

lips and eyes flashing like the gypsy couple drawn on the border


of my old John Thompson Exercises for the Pianoforte?  I imagine hips working

furiously to the rhythms of the Tarantella, a dance said to cure victims

of the tarantula’s deadly sting.  I imagine the dampness spreading


down their napes, the film of oil glistening across their foreheads, above

their lips as they cross the threshold— the poison leaching

from bodies overcome with so much melancholy and desire.  No one’s above


affliction.   Even my mother feels ill when she can’t go ballroom dancing

with her friends, widows in their seventies dressed in silk and georgette,

escorted by handsome young instructors, each one carrying


a briefcase stuffed with CDs and music cassettes:  salsa, swing,

rhumba and tango, somewhere in there perhaps even those sad fados

that sound like the lament of lost doves.  All of them, I think,


must be named Paloma.  I’m sure by the end of the night they sit

like me in the shadow of a balcony or by a window, stung by the radiant rising

of the moon, by the ccuu-ccuu-rruu-ccuu-ccuu echoing through the gardens,


stung by love and hurt and the knowledge that there’s no hope for any of it.



                                                (first published in Poetry East, spring 2005)

Back to Igloria's Index


                        …everything is transformed.

-          Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Elements of Chemistry (1789)


Durable blood, color of rust and desolation;

medium of occult exchanges


and pacts— Blood is thicker than water, my mother

used to say, by which she meant instinct


is related to chemistry.  You quicken to what answers

to the warm parts of darkness; memory of womb or cocoon,


arms that take you in.  Reading a book on subtle

anatomies, I stop at a page that illustrates


the numbered and magnified viscera of butterflies. 

Their wings are uncurtained filaments,


parts of the elastic skeleton exposed as pulleys

that work to ground and also to release.  Nearly


weightless, true vagabonds borrowing passage

on any wind.  And yet they home in and cluster a season


together to sleep, drifts thick as pelt or forest

cover, pulsing color in the shade.  You’d walk


through them as through an echo chamber of collective

breathing.  You’d envy their domestic nesting and


their gorgeous flight; it’s in the blood.  In the end, no diagram

exists for instruction on the body’s mysteries— 


Where does the old blood go?  Why is plasma clear

amber and the rest, vivid and opaque,


like paint? What elements, bound,

allow for ecstasy: invasion of the sluggish blood,


a flush across the cheeks? The earliest

transfusions were from animals, in the belief


they were more innocent.  Human blood was thought corrupted

by debauchery.  I read about the madman Arthur Coga,


first to receive a blood donation in the theatre

of the Royal Society.  The year was 1667, the experiment


recorded in the annals of medicine and surgery.  Having discovered

how the lancet cuts along the vein and not across, they used


a set of silver quills jutting from the carotid artery of a sheep, leading

to his arm.  The documents state that afterwards, the patient was well and merry,


and drank a glass or two of Canary… his pulse being stronger and fuller

than before.  They took him round the coffee-houses, toasting his celebrity. 


Eventually he fevered and died but there are drawings, engravings

from that time.  The marriage of science and art, and the autopsy—


to see into oneself— yields the brilliant illustration.  Now we know

how the heart beats; that blood must match with blood, to cause


effective chemistry. The leech can only drink so much; stupefied,

it peels off  like a drunk and never even registers the wonder. 



                                                (first published in Smartish Pace, May 2004)

Back to Igloria's Index


after Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s “Death of the Virgin” (c. 1601-03)


Death may have taken its time coming,

lending a slip of pallor to the clay, idling

among the stones and furrows in the orchard,


wringing the towel with the body’s water

and effluvia into the pewter basin—It’s still here,

in this room where the light tenders its departure,


a weight that causes Magdalen to double over.

Her coiled braids make me want to sob, her dress

the moldering tint of peaches in summer, her nape


caught in the last rays of sun falling from a high window.

Grown men with balding pates and pilgrims’ beards

stand under a canopy, leathered red muted with sienna,


that Caravaggio paints as an inverted triangle

suspended from the ceiling. They know

whose death they grieve, who were themselves


expelled from out of that first small paradise

between their mothers’ ovaries.  And so

they weep open-mouthed or into their hands,


forgetting shame. John the Younger

can barely hold up his head.  The body

in death, so difficult to behold—


the seamed bodice (also red) drawn tight

over the liver’s cloudy ampules and perforated

kidneys.  Her peasant’s feet, unshod and


bloated with edema.  Here is the brown and careworn face,

the tangle of hair and its brittle halo, the thickened arms

outstretched along the plank, exhausted fingers—


Fingers still shapely like my mother’s, many years ago

when she held me before a camera after Sunday mass,

smoothed her skirt of cotton voile and tossed


her veil and rope of hair behind one shoulder

—so young, so unafraid of what it meant

to have conceived her child out of wedlock.


                                    ~ for Cresencia Rillera Florendo


                        (The 2006 Richard Peterson Poetry Prize, Crab Orchard Review)

Back to Igloria's Index

From the 2007 Her Mark Calendar and Datebook

WomanMade Gallery, Chicago ( –





What is to be worthy or un-

worthy of another?  If there

is fever, there is also work,

a woman wrote in a book

I read.  She recollected

a story and the gift

of an apple to a famous painter:

he set it down on a tabletop

and looked at it for days,

the way its red burned

wilder than a berry or the feathers

on a bird of spring. 

Against the window or yet again

arranged beside a yellow handful

of lemons, and still he would not touch

nor eat.  Is this then a parable

about virtue, how at the end of suffering

there is the consolation of art? 

Cixous says she prefers another method—

to bite into the fruit and open her mouth

to its compact cache of sweetness.

The work is to build

memory of apple back by seed,

by flower and spiral, when not

even its core remains; to teach how the eye

might cleave to the picture no matter how

it’s shaded with the ink of loss.

Back to Igloria's Index

Sharing the Spotlight: Poems of Natalie Diaz (below)

Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan-

Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation


Angels don't come to the reservation.

Bats, maybe. Or owls, boxy mottled things;

coyotes too. They all mean the same thing—

death. But angels? No way. And death

eats angels, I guess, because I haven't seen an angel

fly through this valley ever.

Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a guy named Gabe though.

He came through here one pow-wow and stayed, typical

Indian. Sure he had wings,  

jail bird that he was. He flies around in stolen cars. Wherever he stops,

kids grow like gourds from women's bellies.

Like I said, no Indian I've ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.

Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something.

Nazarene Church holds one every December,

organized by Pastor John's wife. It's no wonder

Pastor John's son is the angel. Everyone knows angels are white.

Quit bothering with angels, I say, they’re no good for Indians.

Remember what happened last time

some white god came floating across the ocean.

Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angels

up there, living on clouds or sitting in castles across the sea wearing

velvet robes and golden wings, drinking whiskey from silver cups,

we're better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and

exactly where they are—in their own distant heavens and worlds.

You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they'll be marching you off to

Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they've mapped out for us.

Back to Diaz's Index

Of Course She Looked Back


You would have, too.

From that distance the city

fit in the palm of her hand

like she owned it.


She could’ve blown the whole thing—

markets, dancehalls, hookah bars—

sent the city and its hundred harems

tumbling across the desert

like a kiss. She had to look back.


When she did, what did she see?

Pigeons trembling like debris

above ruined rooftops. Towers

swaying. Women in dresses

strewn along burnt-out streets

like broken red bells.


The noise was something else.

Dogs wept. Roosters howled.

Children sang songs of despair.

Guitars fed the dancing blaze.


Her husband uttered Keep going.

Whispered Stay the course, or

Forget about it. She couldn’t.

Now a blooming garden of fire

the city burst to flame after flame

like fruit in an orange orchard.


Someone thirsty asked for water.

Someone scared asked to pray.

Her daughters, or the angel

maybe. She wondered

had she unplugged the coffee pot?

The iron? Was the oven off?

She meant to look away.


Long dark legs of smoke opened 

to the sky. She meant to look

away, but the sting in her eyes

held her there.

Back to Diaz's Index

Why I Don’t Mention Flowers When Conversations

With My Brother Reach Uncomfortable Silences


                Forgive me, distant wars, for bringing flowers home.

                                                                                ~ Wislawa Szymborska



In the Kashmir Mountains,

my brother shot many men,

blew skulls from brown skins,

dyed white desert sand crimson.


Were there flowers there? I asked.


This is what he told me:


In a village, many men

wrapped a woman in a sheet.

She didn't struggle.                              

Her bare feet dragged in the dirt.


They laid her in the road

and stoned her.


The first man was her father.

He threw two stones in a row.

Her brother had filled his pockets

with stones on the way there.


The crowd was a hive

of disturbed bees. The volley

of stones against her body

drowned out her moans.


Blood burst through the sheet

like a patch of violets,

a hundred roses in bloom.

Back to Diaz's Index

The Girl From Yu Mountain


Bamboo, slender and lime ripe, shoots straight, hard and up from cobalt and white 

   hand-painted vases like prison bars

cutting you into halves, fracturing the world until you forget which side is caged

which side is free, you suffocate and breathe, gasping for answers that hide

like flowers too weed to bloom, leaving you to part the stalks

see see but you never do


in the jeweled box behind your eyes you can,

inside you are a baby, your head a round jade bead, heavy, smooth

you cry when the red egg is rolled on your crown, you cry when you are hungry 

   when you are sleepy,

stopping only when your mother folds you to her breasts where you grow golden 

   suckling on jasmine and candied ginger,

you learn to speak orange-flavored words that sting your tongue

shi shi your mother says, rocking her body in rhythm you mistake for heart beat;


pulls of thick skin, shiny scars, remember the German Shepherd that bit below

   your ear, shredding your throat like rice paper 

the spot on your elbow, a fall you never rose from, still peppered with asphalt

on your twelfth birthday a priest brought you the purple twelve-speed bike you wanted  

   for months

the death of your father came the day before, unwrapped and ribbonless, you accepted

   them both with unmoving lips and eyes

trembling inside like a broken-winged bird, you listened for your mother’s words

   instead she fell to the bed, you nodded your head and pressed your face to her

now flat and empty, yellow and hard like a callous, you heard no song in either chest—


you shut your eyes for the first time like tiny bronze shields, lychee blossoms sprouted  

   filling the garden beyond the stretch of stone wall

yes yes you said, because you knew—


Who is there now to lift their shirt to you? To recognize the salt in your tired breath

   and pluck the leathery fruit from the place where hearts were meant to grow?

Who will speak the words across your eyelids shh shh


—I can only write.

Back to Diaz's Index

Come back each month and discover the work of other poets to be featured in the "Poet's Spotlight."


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