by Beth McDermott
Preface to Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass, an echapbook by Luisa A. Igloria
by Beth McDermott
In his introduction to A Book of Luminous Things, Czeslaw Milosz writes: “The artist in his work has to capture and to preserve one moment, which becomes, indeed, eternal. In that way time is valorized; its every small part deserves an alert noting down of its shape and color” (xviii). In Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass, Luisa A. Igloria attempts to capture and preserve the moments that we neglect to notice, perhaps because we don’t think they’re worthy of our attention, or because we find them replaceable. She argues that it shouldn’t be so easy to substitute one moment or thing for another, that “the animal, the child, the gun, / the land mine” is each singular and worthy of being written down. It is the poet’s work to make an account, to catalogue, in Milosz’s words, “every small part” (xviii). In “Inventory,” a poem that recalls Tu Fu’s ability to craft a scene by transitioning from one sensory observation to another, Igloria lists barely imperceptible moments that result in significant sensory experience for the reader:
of a chime intercepted by a draft:
salt filtering down the cellar.
of sectioned light: marble
with a heart of revolving flame.
that the bird stole
in the shape of a fig.
on the counter’s edge:
powdery sift of milk on the tongue.
suspended from the rafters,
furled tight as a drying rosebud.
The final image of a suspended moth “furled tight as a drying rosebud” is an example of Igloria’s interest in the brevity of a living thing’s lifespan—further reason why it’s important to notice “every small trembling / that only wants an accounting.” In "Ask me the time and I point to the sun—", Igloria’s speaker’s concern is how to rectify the brief lifespans of seemingly insignificant things with the constantly hot sun. The first line of the poem begins with the speaker’s interjection, a rhetorical shift that directs us away from the sun mentioned in the title and toward species currently inhabiting earth:
But what of the shadow
dear to the sundial,
or the moss that lines
cracked patio tiles?
What of the breathing
of fish through winter,
and the rushes that carpet
the bottom of the pond?
What of the flowers
whose white throats open
only once, before folding
back into themselves?
These earthly elements are so inconstant that the stanzas are riddled with verbs. Moss “lines / cracked patio tiles,” fishes breathe, rushes carpet, and flowers’ throats open “only once, before folding / back into themselves.” Igloria’s concern is obviously not time in an immortal sense, but time we tell by observing the far corners of our daily lives. So, while the sun may be one way to tell time, it’s not sufficient because its constancy doesn’t include the transitory living things underfoot. We can barely stand to look at the sun, but we can witness the efflorescence of a flower that reminds us of our own brief flourishing.
“Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass” is in some respects an ode to nature—Igloria doesn’t believe nature has ended, but that it exists. It exists in specific habitable places like “the hill town” her speaker was raised in, but it’s also in and around us; we can’t get away from it and yet somehow we do. Consider, in “Please Explain How Flowers Are Essential,” the university that forgot that bees need flowers. Consider, in “Mushi Ghazal,” the garden insects as well as “invisible or psychic bugs, the ones that determine how / you feel inside.” And in “Utopian Fruit: A Zuihitsu,” consider Igloria’s speaker’s belief that she is enriched by noticing the natural world around her:
Red bell tower with a cotton lining; one dark-suited crow for a clapper.
The night birds chant a song of virgules only. When I wake, the fields have
throats lined with frogs’ mating songs.
In the shallows, what makes the cheeks of the lotus bulge?
I squinted up into the trees and saw the face of the Buddha pressed on each
green globe dangling.
Dear tufted seed lying in the maw of thunder, I raise my cup to be blessed.