Samsara

by Luisa A. Igloria

Inside the sack were tokens
and I was asked to choose—

A thimble or a wine glass.
A seed or a spore. Pruning shears

or the fragrance of velvet-skinned fruit.
I thought about hallways pearly

with grain, and how the bare-headed moon
shone so brightly on them. I lost count

in order to start again. I stared
dumbly at my hands, writing and creasing

the same letter, reading it over. The years
rushed by, though not necessarily toward heartbreak.

Chance wealth fell to the ground in the orchard,
every now and then allowing a taste.
 

Luisa A. Igloria is the author of the eChapbook Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press, spring 2015); Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow: Prose Poems (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), 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 currently teaches in and directs the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University. For more than four years now, since November 20, 2010, Luisa A. Igloria has been writing (at least) a poem a day; these poems are archived on Dave Bonta’s Via Negativa website.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Samsara”?

    Last summer, I wrote a series of Buddha-inspired poems that are part of a new poetry manuscript. I’m not Buddhist, but many ideas that have some familiarity from their circulation in the general media culture and that are associated with Buddhism, are fascinating to me. The idea of “samsara” is that of an endless cycle of birth and rebirth; the goal of each life is supposedly to move toward greater transcendence and awakening. The obstacle is of course always desire, that condition of eternal longing (which I find is also the basic condition enabling any act of creation, including writing and poetry). Some days I sigh and say I want to be good. Or I want to be better. A better person, lover, mother, parent, teacher, writer. Some days all I can seem to say is I want I want I want. Other days I feel I should want less, learn to be still, trust more. What does all this really mean? I don’t know, but out of this daily struggle to understand beauty and sadness and complexity, poems come.
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