56 SANTO TOMAS STREET
Your patent shoes sink
in loam flecked with feathers,
seedcases split and empty. Already,
the summer frock you wear is short
for your four years. Knees frown
beneath the shirred skirt.
The black purse you clutch
was your sister’s once. Your grasp
is tentative—you know some things
will never be wholly yours.
Your father lowers the lens,
asks you to move from the shade.
From the corner of your eye,
your grandmother, a grey-white
blur, shakes the bag of seed. You fix
your eyes beyond the camera.
The cage, a feathered
Your lit face
as the shutter clicks.
Under the red lamp
I watch him douse
each small white square.
Side by side we search
the shallows, seafarers
peering through glass
for sliver of coast, rough ridge.
One by one he brings us
mother, son. Again and again
within light-tight walls
he births us.
My mother-of-pearl pendant—
half teardrop slung on a leather cord,
bought from a hawker of veils
and batik. A brown book of poems,
signed by the Indonesian poet
who sat next to me at dinner.
Four words remain in memory:
“To love, to wander…” I’m missing
a watercolor of vegetable vendors
given by my mother on the occasion
of my first apartment. The stillness
of those nights, the last box emptied,
searching the blank ceiling, imagining
the shades of green, the shapes
of the women—squatting, stooped, large
with child, bent over baskets piled with
a season’s bounty. I’d give anything
to find my tape of Glenn Gould playing
Bach’s Goldberg Variations, the one my father
copied for me on a gray cassette before the age
of compact discs. Hearing the first strains
at Mandrake Books on Story Street,
Mr. Rosen, my ninety-year old boss,
paused at the window, lost
in shining sound, smooth as water
over stone. Idly he smiled,
arthritic knuckles tapping time
on a dog-eared Books-In-Print,
eyes fixed on some lost heaven.
ELEGY WITH ATLAS MOTH AND YELLOW BELLS
We may never see them again
the giant-winged Lepidoptera
alighting on fire trees that shaded us
at recess, our bench
a mass of knuckled roots.
About the size of a fruit bat,
they spread their wings like burnt
maps across a span of leaves
proving that beauty appears
to the small and lonely alike.
And it’s unlikely that anyone will discover—
as I did, leaning into a hollow bush
on the playground near the septic tank,
the foliated room where sun poured
through yellow trumpet blooms
we could spy from our classroom.
Daily we wrote in cursive to the swish
of Sister Angelica’s skirts as she dusted
a cracked row of encyclopedias,
June rain rinsing the window glass.
It’s raining when you pass the glistening
warehouses on the right, the overgrown field
down the slope. Above, a redwing veers
off its path, seeks cover under a branch.
And suddenly your eyes smart
with tears. Not because your son
just moved a thousand miles away—no,
not for your mother who cannot recall
her name. And not for any of those lost
loves the wind stirs up like burnt leaves.
But because, for a moment, everything
comes clear—a crimson flash igniting
a bird’s arc over the rainslick road.
WHAT ISN’T THERE
Even without leaves
the Bradford pear keeps
its bell silhouette.
Above, a commonplace moon,
somewhere between half
and full, waxing edge
rubbed like the worn
ridges of a lucky quarter.
A sentence partly
we might have been.
Angela Narciso Torres’s first book of poetry, Blood Orange, won the Willow Books Literature Award for Poetry and will be published in the fall of 2013. A graduate of Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she has received fellowships from Illinois Arts Council, Ragdale Foundation, and Midwest Writing Center. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she lives in Chicago and edits the poetry journal RHINO. For more, visit http://www.angelanarcisotorres.com/.
© 2013 Angela Narcisco Torres