In that other world, it’s the first thing that signals dawn before it’s even dawn:
shrill piercing cries of Tik-tilaooook! In the dark, a chorus of caged roosters.
I always wondered why the middleman who calls bets at cockfights is called the Kristo.
How sharp the flashing spurs, how vivid the blood-jet feathers of some roosters.
Our first-grade teacher lectured us on piety, simplicity, appetite—
Don’t be the kind of child who demands, every day, a dish of chicken.
My father’s favorite meal was a clear broth with ginger, malunggay, or sili leaves.
Bobbing in the soup: perfectly boiled, salted and peppered pieces of chicken.
My husband and one of my daughters were born in the Year of the Dragon; one was born
in the Year of the Snake, another in the Year of the Pig. I’m an Ox. My eldest is the Rooster.
Once I went to a sleepy town far south, where writers sat along the seawall all summer. A witch-
island was visible in the distance. Hot off sidewalk grills, we ate skewered parts of chicken.
Sauces drip from your fingers, down your palms. There’s a different kind of joy in eating with
your hands. Give me salt or shrimp paste with rice—sometimes it’s better than chicken.
In the north, past my own hometown, the locals have a dish called pinikpikan. I can’t tell you
more than that it involves the slow, induced coagulation of blood beneath the skin. And a chicken.
One day I wanted to tell you my biggest secret. You stood in the hallway, smiling. There was
no one else around: the perfect opportunity. But my nerves were snarled copper—I was too chicken.
Luisa A. Igloria is the author of Maps for Migrants and Ghosts (cowinner, 2019 Crab Orchard Open Poetry Prize), The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (2018), twelve other books, and four chapbooks. Originally from Baguio City, she makes her home in Norfolk, Virginia, where she is the Louis I. Jaffe and University Professor of English and Creative Writing at Old Dominion University’s MFA creative writing program. She also leads workshops for and is a member of the board of the Muse Writers Center in Norfolk. Luisa is the twentieth poet laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (2020–22), emerita. During her term, the Academy of American Poets awarded her a 2021 Poet Laureate Fellowship. www.luisaigloria.com. • Photo by Gabriela A. Igloria