My first year living in America the scent of frying garlic sent me weeping. My eyes
swept the somber avenues starving for color. I devoured the aquamarine of broken glass,
a wire festooned with yellow shoes, the sudden shower of rose on a sidewalk. The memory
of sour mangoes made rivers in my mouth. At the market I picked the greenest nectarines, dredged them
in salt that stung my chapped lips. Words I hoarded like rock candy, melted on my tongue
like my too-hard r’s. Range rover, red robin, river rock. I practiced into the ear of an empty flagon,
reciting litanies to the saint of lost things. The walls echoed with whispers. Lying lily-still
in the goblet of night, I drank the sweet croon of nameless birds. Lullabies bloomed like moonflowers.
Self-Portrait as Water
why does the body feel most beautiful underwater— is what goes through me
when I break the blue surface, levels rising as I plumb the tub’s white womb
this second skin thinner, slicker, gleaming wet as a lacquered bowl
because the simplest of molecules—two H’s one O—love
to love each other, cling to what they touch how this universal solvent
swallows every hill fills the hollows of my surrender
most forgiving of substances, I resolve to live like you—to fill
and be filled, to take the shape of my vessel
dispensing heat displacing matter lighter than air
Recuerdo a mi madre
I remember brown-outs. How soft candle wax felt against my scar. How it formed a pebbled lakebed.
Decades ago we spread blankets on our parents’ bedroom floor. I fell asleep watching my beautiful mother sleep.
Cloaked in her frayed bathrobe, her guava scent, I clutched my fears like lost teeth then let them slip down the drain.
I’ve been avoiding the telephone, spending dusty hours at the piano.
Broken chords. I stutter the cadenza. Prolong the fermata. Each note
insists like the past. Like prayer and dirge.
Today I let light have its way. Lavender candles ribbon the air with scent.
Sun presses into a window. Into silence a jackhammer drills. I close my eyes
and see a trembling star. How long till the full moon blues the sidewalks?
Finding my mother crouched on the tiled floor,
her flickering eyes swollen, the housedress she loved
in shreds, my father led us outside. Called an ambulance.
Her silence an explosive he’d learned to detonate.
My sister lights a trail of ants with a match.
Some pop, others scurry from a dead finch. A few linger,
stitching a loose border around the bird’s stone eye.
I couldn’t look, couldn’t stop looking.
Bewildered, I grew up, learned to embroider
an alphabet. I dipped my pen in father’s tears. To know
my mother requires the patience of a miner
carving amethyst from rock. To know my mother
is to memorize a labyrinth of longing.
-- Angela Narciso Torres’s poetry collection, Blood Orange, won the Willow Books Award. Recent work appears in Nimrod, Water~Stone Reivew, Spoon River Poetry Review, ColoradoReview, and other journals. A graduate of Warren Wilson MFA Program and Harvard Graduate School of Education, she has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Illinois Arts Council, and Ragdale Foundation. Born in Brooklyn and raised in Manila, she is a poetry editor for RHINO and a reader for New England Review.