Angela Narciso Torres Oct 10, 2008 16:01:28 GMT 2
Post by thepoetslizard on Oct 10, 2008 16:01:28 GMT 2
Angela Narciso Torres was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Manila, Philippines. Her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, North American Review, Asian Pacific American Journal, and the anthology Going Home to a Landscape: Writings by Filipinas (Calyx). She received second prize in the 2003 James Hearst Poetry Competition. A recent transplant to Chicago from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is currently enrolled at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
"Thursday, After DInner at L'Amie Donia"
We arrive past midnight, stepping out of coats
and street shoes into the plum darkness
of stairs leading to our children’s bedroom.
Through the railing of the top bunk,
our nine-year-old’s limbs dangle, angular
and smooth as a sapling, his long bones
like bare branches in the sleep of winter,
the shy curve of biceps under a yellow sleeve.
Shirtless and coiled near the edge
of his mattress, our second lies cocooned
waist down in blue flannel, threadbare
from years of washing. His mouth is open,
his eyebrows, black feathers arranged
like question marks. I pull the quilt to his chin,
he murmurs—about what, I will never know.
Palms pressed together under a cheek,
the youngest rests on his side, one thigh
thrown over the balled-up sheet. At five years,
he spans the length of the toddler bed.
When I bend to lift his bangs, stringy with sweat,
the air fills with boy-smells: talc, sea-spray, metal.
His eyes scrunch together as if to seal out
moonlight. Standing in the room amid
three sleeping boys, their thin chests
swelling and emptying to different tempos,
I can almost believe they’re mine to keep—
blood, bone, and breath, in that moment,
despite knowing what time has passed since
each slippery push that launched their drifting,
ineluctable as the movement of ships
or continents, away from where they started.
Other nights, after dining somewhere,
we could be reading in bed or making love
as they inch away, quiet as glaciers,
farther by the minute, fading like a dream I try
to describe in daylight. Stay, stay—I want to cry out,
but the images dim and blur at the edge of morning,
so that by noon I’ve lost entire stories, and starting
at the beginning doesn’t help me to remember.
(Previously published in North American Review, 2nd Prize James Hearst Poetry Competition)
The summer I turned eight, my brother let me slip
behind him on the glitter-blue seat of his bike, my arms
around his waist, and taught me about freedom.
In midday sun the pavement winked like starlight.
Wobbling into balance, we swerved past the village gate,
leaving the chores, the barking of dogs, the nanny
on her siesta. The wheels burned; the wind made whips
of my hair. Down three blocks, the red-and-white striped
awning of Park Lane shaded its piles of fruit, candy
melting in jars, aspirin by the piece, sacks of rice,
ice cold drinks. And Rosemarie—storeowner, aging
movie star, wilting in curlers and kabuki make-up
behind the glass case of pencils, Band-Aids and glue.
In the air around her, the buzz of small children,
like bees to their queen. Her eyes, a shade lighter
than sorrow, widened with kindness when she called
in sing-song Filipino accent, What do you liiike? Faced
with the dilemma of Sarsi or Coke, I stood flamingo-
style, right foot on left leg, hand on hip, weighing
each choice. My brother, unspeaking beside me,
understood the heft of those minutes, the bondage
of indecision. Even the baby stopped crying.
The tsk, tsk, tsk of a lizard. From somewhere,
a love song on the radio.
Then oh, sweet poison—
the pop and hiss of the cap, the cold-bitter slap
of Coke streaking the back of my throat, the triumph
of decision. Oh, to be eight, to fly home on a bike
with your brother, belting out “Freedom” like Aretha
and the Blues Brothers, arms raised in chorus.
On the sidewalk, our combined shadows moved
at the speed of clouds, the inky shape of freedom,
that twin-headed beast, hybrid of terror and joy.
(Previously published in Sand Hill Review)
"Postcards from Bohol"
Emerald mounds rise from the deep,
their white shoulders shedding turquoise
waters. When we scoop the wet sand
fine putty sluices through our fingers.
Our heels sink inches with every step,
leaving blurred footprints where small
crabs fine-pencil disappearing tracks.
By dusk the tide has receded a hundred feet,
revealing the ribbed sea bed, ghost-pale
in the gathering dark. Scores of starfish
dot the rippled sand, white limbs etched
in gray, splayed under the night sky—
a universe in reverse. Ian, shirt flapping,
lifts a sun starfish, purple knobs radiating
on luminous limbs. We huddle around him,
our cheeks flushed with twilight.
Driving through the country with windows
down, we count nipa huts, their thin walls
woven from palm, dark and light fronds
alternating, a diamond pattern framed in bamboo.
Air infused with green—kamagong, acacia, tanguile.
Dogs bark, a rooster tied to a gatepost scratches
and pecks, cocks its head. Children in faded blue
uniforms wave shyly, their feet coated in red dust.
Rain falls in fits and starts. A drizzle
filters the air like gauze, taming the warm breeze.
Wind brings muffled cries of faraway children,
the hum of cicadas, drums from a fiesta
enfolded in the wash of waves. Across
the verandah, two gardeners in yellow shirts
are sharing a meal of fish and rice.
The waves tell of beauty that comes unbidden,
approaching as a lover walks through a door,
each time familiar yet heart-stopping. Hermit crabs
scuttle sideways on the sand, their paths crossing
and uncrossing, their shells of lavender and coiled
pearl chosen from the caves of night. The sea
has the calm sadness of what cannot stay:
the waxing gibbous moon; our sons,
bent over a pool of silver fish,
their cheekbones limned with watery light
thin shoulders barely touching.
(Previously published in Rattle)