NPM 2.5: California & Beyond

And here is Installment #2.5 of “Crossing the Country Line by Line,” starting with Karen Llagas of California.  Her poem “Pantoum” also appeared in NPM 2 yesterday, but because it had 3 spin-off poems, we’re reprinting it here for this second chain.

More NPM coming next week and throughout April!

Image courtesy of Geographicus Rare Antique Maps (Wikimedia Commons) PD-US

Karen Llagas (California)

Pantoum

I waited by Wal-Mart, among rows of lit houses.
Your face tired, expectant.
Friday, so we drove to Blockbuster, lingered
silent by old movies for a long time.

Your face tired, expectant—
It was clear I couldn’t have made you happy.
Silent by old movies for a long time,
is a line in a poem that keeps repeating.

It was clear I couldn’t have made you happy.
In the suburbs, in their formulaic simplicity,
is a line in a poem that keeps repeating.
America is big enough for love, too big for tenderness.

In the suburbs, in their formulaic simplicity,
Slant of fluorescence and a bright requirement coming back.
America is big enough for love, too big for tenderness.
We tried, but we couldn’t believe.

Slant of fluorescence and a bright requirement coming back.
The car door unstuck, catching us in tears.
We tried, but we couldn’t believe.
Everything I said I was saying to myself.

The car door unstuck, catching us in tears.
I waited by Wal-Mart, among rows of lit houses.
Everything I said I was saying to myself.
Friday, so we drove to Blockbuster, lingered.


Heather Kirn Lanier (Ohio)

Roadside Attractions

     America is big enough for love, too big for tenderness. 

It’s big enough for sixty million cars,
too big for our sputtering sedan.

America is big enough for the world’s largest floating loon,
too big for this panoramic lens,

big enough for three time zones,
too big for my great-grandmother’s headstone.

America is big enough for a ten-thousand pound ball
of rubber bands, too big
for the ocean to touch our toes
                                                         when we stand
in Kansas, which is where we also find
               the biggest ball of twine.

America is big enough big enough big enough for a life-

size Tyrannosaurus Rex, big enough for another
              statue of a dead man, big enough for the breeze
                            to reach our faces from the Pacific,

and it is big enough for the world’s
largest rubber stamp, off-kilter in Clevelandand ready
                                   to plaster the cornfields
           with the word FREE.

But it is too big for all the blades of grass to go
            noticed,

too big for our children’s children to smell that this dandelion
patch is where we began, my love, and too big

for me to know what you’re really thinking
                                                                            when you hear
                              the slowest song on this road-
              trip soundtrack and stare
your solitude into the Utah bluffs.


Katherine Riegel (Florida)

Singing, or Waiting to Sing

           [America] is too big for all the blades of grass to go noticed… —Heather Kirn Lanier

I notice you,
silent heron standing elbow-deep
in water so green it could be
a light saying go, wide eyes
glowing on a million street corners
in the dark time
when most of us should be
asleep.
          I notice you, moon sister,
tip-toeing into bedrooms and laying
strange hands on foreheads,
showing us hidden paths
through the undergrowth.
                                                      I notice
you, glimmering coastlines,
and you, river of grass
with your armored guardians.

Everywhere I walk through clouds
of words as thick as gnats.
I want to close my eyes
and swat them away,

but some of them are singing.
Some of you are naming the world
anew. Some of you are
dreaming, hungry, curving
your necks over the water, waiting
to strike. Don’t worry.
I notice you.


Luisa A. Igloria (Virginia)

Lineage

In the shadows of a boxcar
hurtling north or west, did your grandfather
or your uncle bring a harmonica to his lips
just because all night, the tracks ran
parallel to a sliver of water?

And when they jumped before
dawn, before the margins of the next
town came fully into view, did they feel
once again in the depths of their pockets,
the press of a lucky coin against their palms?

And later, as the months
of summer bore down upon the fields,
did they pause from their stooped labors when
the green shoots tipped by light reminded them
of a different place and time, a face by the window?

And you’ve been told of how
they shielded their faces from the sun, or
from the rain of fish scales from the cannery floor,
or from the blows that came in exchange for
a tremulous query on rent, or milk, or love—

Do you see their eyes
sometimes looking back at you
from the mirror at the oddest times:
like when you’re tying your hair into a ponytail
or slicking some gel over an unruly cowlick?

You notice again
that it isn’t only your eyes or hair,
not just the voices you hear downstairs:
your brother doing the dishes, your mother
asking your father to take out the trash—

You want fish and rice
with your eggs at breakfast, tomatoes on the side.
You press bare feet on the floor, poems and stories in your head.
There are nights when the moon hangs low in the sky, luminous
as a billboard or an invitation to cross prairies and seas.


Karen Llagas is a recipient of the second Filamore Tabios, Sr. Memorial Poetry Prize, and her first collection of poetry, “Archipelago Dust,” was published by Meritage Press in 2010. She has an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and a BA in Economics from Ateneo de Manila. Also a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, she lives inSan Francisco where she works as a Tagalog interpreter & instructor, and a poet-teacher with the California Poets in the Schools (CPITS).

 

Heather Kirn Lanier’s collection, “The Story You Tell Yourself,” won the Wick Poetry Open Chapbook Competition.  Her memoir, “Teaching in the Terrordome: Two Years in West Baltimore with Teach forAmerica,” is forthcoming from theUniversity of Missouri Press.  Her essays and poems have appeared in dozens of publications, including The Sun, The Threepenny Review, and Fourth Genre. When she travels cross country, she likes to listen to Neil Diamond.

 

Katherine Riegel’s first book of poetry is “Castaway.” Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including Brevity, Crazyhorse, Fourth Genre, and Terrain.org. She is poetry editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection (sweetlit.com). She teaches at the University of South Florida and lives near Tampa. Her website is www.katherineriegel.com.

 

 

Luisa A. Igloria is the author of “Juan Luna’s Revolver” (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize), “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. Since November 20, 2010, she has been writing (at least) a poem a day at Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa site. When she isn’t writing, reading, or teaching, she cooks with her family, hand-binds books, listens to tango music, and keeps her radar tuned for cool lizard sightings.

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