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Holly Iglesias


Someone in Indiana peels a hard-boiled egg for a Starbucks protein box. Someone in Oregon holds the pose—downward dog—for a few seconds more than yesterday. Someone in Tennessee waits for the bus, a canteen clipped to her backpack. Someone in Maryland decides to buy the shoes anyway. Someone in Arizona reads the poem a second time, backwards. Someone in Ohio locks the car, the child inside still crying. Someone in Maine slips a wooden canoe into the lake and paddles toward a cloudbank. Someone in the Upper Peninsula sits in a pew with a rosary balled up in her fist. Someone in the Gulf loses sight of land. Someone upstate lies down in the orchard, apple blossoms for clouds. Someone in the next town forgets his homework and his milk money. Someone upriver watches the winter melt erode the bank. Someone in the plane sees her childhood home in a new light. Someone in the closet raps against the door, the other hand warming the handle. Someone in the building throws her children to the floor, then throws herself upon them. Someone in heaven tries to go back. To help her.

Calle De Los Caídos
     after Jean Follain’s “Signs for Travellers”

I do not alert visitors from space to the signs by which they will recognize humankind, inexperienced as I am with black-haired girls and bakeries with all the lights out. Follain knew these things as well as he knew that a great mountain of objects preserves memory within it. I may not be intimate with a world reduced to rubble by the Great War, but I have seen a horse dead in the street in Zaragoza, outside the Mercado Delicias, and men in stained aprons and berets working at the delicate project of trussing its once-noble limbs that it might be hauled to the banks of the Ebro and butchered there for the benefit of the poor, all the while Our Lady of the Pillar gazing at their labors from her perch.

Carbon Dating

Todo es hermoso y constante,            Everything is lovely and faithful,

Todo es música y razón,                        Is music and reason and every-

Y todo, como el diamante,                    thing, like a diamond before it’s

Antes que luz es carbón.                       Light, it’s darkness.

                                                                                    —José Martí

Anguished and broken, Martí convalesced in the Catskills, where he wrote the poems that continue to outlive him and endear him to lovers and zealots throughout the hemisphere. His Versos Sencillos and Nitza Villapol’s Cocina Cubana were put in my hands by my new mother-in-law—a head shorter than me and always dressed for a funeral—as I boarded a plane to New Orleans, where I grabbed my passport from the house I shared with six other hippies on Panola Street not far from the St. Charles streetcar, which began running in 1835, and at the time of my departure cost a dime. I was fleeing the States with a draft evader and moving to Zaragoza, capital of Aragon, a Muslim state until the 12th century and a Fascist bastion since their civil war, where we lived until our war ended, not yet knowing that wars do not end. By the time Saigon fell, I had two babies—one naturalized, one native-born—a passport full of border crossings, and two languages, neither of which had a word for what I knew of exile.

The Day I Was

Radioactive at Mass, I sat behind a young man who exhibited symptoms of acute devotionalism—bowing at the waist at each utterance of the word Jesus, kneeling on the stone floor, tap-tap- tapping his chest, raising his arms, palms up. The doctor had warned me to stay at least six feet away from other people for two days and to use disposable utensils and plates and to not have sex and to not get close to pregnant women and to not sleep in the same bed as children for a week. As we finished the Our Father, it struck me that I should not shake the man’s hand, nor that of the woman down the pew from me who had re-arranged the contents of her purse during the Kyrie. Nor did I want to say, Sorry, I’m radioactive. What a pity I had no asbestos glove to serve as a barrier so that I could extend my hand in earnest and say, Peace be with you. But the man did not turn around to face me, and the woman did not look up from her missal, so I wrapped my arms around myself instead, an embrace to limit the isotope’s range and to keep the fearful parts of me from flying out.

Holly Iglesias is the author of three collections of poetry—Sleeping Things, Angles of Approach, and Souvenirs of a Shrunken World—and a critical work, Boxing Inside the Box: Women’s Prose Poetry. She has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, the North Carolina Arts Council, the Edward Albee Foundation, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and teaches in the University of Miami 's MFA Program in Creative Writing, with a focus on archival and documentary poetry.

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