Luisa A. Igloria

The Return

When he re-enters her life the trees have begun their preparations for the world’s slow
receding into white. She sits on a bench watching sleeves of color falling—rust and
yellow, strips of feathered green, pooling on the streets where men sweep striped
restaurant awnings clean and carry the damp wrought-iron café chairs and tables away
from the sidewalks to indicate their use is no longer recommended. When he arrives
they move indoors and take a chair, each in front of the other, next to a picture window.
Against the red brick interior, a still life. They can make out the dry ivory husks of garlic
cloves, the crusty surface of a French boule dusted with flour and a yellow sifting of
grain. The coffee comes, strong and hot, in seafoam-tinted ceramic mugs with a nautilus
pressed like a small ear near each base. Any tremors which pass in the air between
them, around them, might go undetected. The light, falling early, softens the glint of
emeralds in his eyes. A word, starfruit, rolls on the table of conversation, compact as a
glass that holds a sip of water. Its two middle consonants bend the mouth in the shape
of a leaf. She’s seen it in the supermarket in this neighborhood—its five ridges, five
seams, five spines a clean writing on its succulent back. Sliced thin and horizontally on
the chopping board, a handful of stars to scatter over a salad plate, to slip into the broth,
so its clear green note forgives the smoked meat its excesses. And what of necessity?
Ask the beautiful fish that turn and speed like arrows throughout the day in the pool with
no exit to the river, what the ripeness of their colors is for. Their scales flash, brilliant and
vermilion, joyous, as if in defiance. Each moment gathers and thickens like awareness
between the tips of fingers, explaining how the present can be plausible and lovely, even
when later, returning once again to its monastery, the heart sounds the brown notes of
its bell-clapper, shaves its head, lies down to sleep with the sorrow of what it will love but
cannot keep.



“The Return” first appeared in The Missouri Review, spring 2004 (Finalist, Larry Levis Editors Prize), and is from Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005)