Black Lawrence Immigrant Writing Series Selection: Caulbearer by Luisa A. Igloria

Upon careful review, the Editorial Board of the Black Lawrence Immigrant Writing Series recommends Caulbearer: Poems by Luisa A. Igloria for publication through Black Lawrence Press.

About the Author

Originally from Baguio City, Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (Co-Winner, 2019 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Prize, Southern Illinois University Press, 2020), The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2018), and 12 other books. She was the inaugural recipient of the 2015 Resurgence Poetry Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by a panel headed by former UK Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. She is a Louis I. Jaffe Professor of English and Creative Writing in the MFA Program at Old Dominion University, and also leads workshops for and is a member of the board of The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk. During her appointed term as 20th Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020-22), Emerita, the Academy of American Poets awarded her one of twenty-three Poet Laureate Fellowships in 2021, to support a program of public poetry projects.

Photo credit: Gabriela Aurora Igloria


Artist Statement

When a newborn emerges with a caul (part or all of the thin amniotic sac) over its head or body, the midwife or doctor works quickly to release it so as not to endanger the child’s breathing. Technically, it is the lining of the womb which housed the child before it comes into the world. In many cultures, a caul is considered talismanic; and a child born with it, possessing luck or protection. As metaphor, it could signify the veiled interval of transition from one state to another.

It’s said that history is what is over, what is finished or done. But history is also what is written by those who have the power to circulate narratives. For immigrants, nostalgia seems to be only the fantasy of return— Or is it a fluid space in which those who have left any place of origin can continue to actively deploy both memory and reminiscence on their own terms?

In these poems, I want to query the idea that nostalgia is only the idealization or romanticization of the past, and therefore somehow a detriment to processes of adjustment or assimilation. The space nostalgia opens does not only contain evidence of our difference or otherness. It also offers opportunities for discovering pleasure in the re-imagining and the telling of our own stories, for as long and for as many times as we need.



Selected Poems from Caulbearer




History as Catalogue of Phantasms

Noon with its white horse and houses of plague,
evening with its shrouded owls. Biology

of illusions. Everything we wear and shed
and shoot, borrowed from the ransacked past.

Domes of churches glow pink in the sunset,
made beautiful by all these curtains of smog.

In their shadow, vendors with oily trays
of beads and amulets. There used to be a zoo

somewhere in the heart of the old city:
emaciated elephants, drying pools where

they kept a mermaid dressed in verdigris.
I wanted to ask her how to play this instrument

that seems designed for continuous mourning.
I wanted to ask her about how to be in two

places at once: the heart swishing in
a mason jar, womb-space bluing the water.




After Leaving

Things you never forget
reside somewhere inside

your bones: the span of a chord,
the way water tastes when it first

shoots out of the mouth of a rusted
iron pump. Razor-bite of acid applied to

a wart, the near-human scream of a goat
awaiting its death under guava

trees. Everyone comes from imagined
origins: land of dark sugar hills, land

of multiplying gravestones. You can clean
windowpanes with balled-up newsprint

and their shine will be like cathedral
glass dipped in milk. This is your

history, and you bind it in ink and crosses.
You were born in its shed, but you left for an

unholy land. Whatever you erect in its image
becomes an orchard where you’ll spend

the rest of your days like a bride who can’t
return until every fruit is charred or picked

clean. You decide to live in the present;
that is, between the crescent’s horns.