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Still Life with Transduction

The last time we’d met—a bad quarrelsome
Thanksgiving made worse by partners we

were both about to leave—she’d told me
about the pregnancy, including the Southeast Asian

country from where its soul she believed
had come. It was Oakland, a world away

from the prairie suburb we’d both fled
for love & education, where I’d drawn

mostly from postcards & she’d explained
it was best to draw from life. I said nothing

of comfort—not because I was heartless
but because I was stunned—& she retired

to her prized possession, the claw-foot tub
she’d restored on the second floor

& my last thought before waking in the dark
to drive south over swells & stretches

Midwestern in their shorelessness
was to wonder what it was like to see

with sound: limbs
folded, unfolding, curled in pulse

& process. I took a class to pass the time
in a jobless friendless city: it was important to learn

to feel what I saw, to remember what I touched
touched me. It took years to learn

that with luck you can see the face
& with luck’s opposite even stillness.

Soon a postcard came (a favorite Balthus
& a subtext of reconciliation) & in a drizzle

off Fairfax she introduced her husband
& I my wife & infant son. Out of ignorance,

not tact, they made no mention of the one
we hadn’t been able to have. She

was glowing, almost three months,
& would soon get her first chance to see.

Tell me everything she said, meaning tell me
not to be afraid.

[Island in the Infinitive]

To survey. To surveil.

To yoke stars, islands,

tribes—slow & far-flung dooms

corralled into ensemble.

To constellate; archipelago.

Portmanteau & neologize.

To fix a golden

foil across the mouth—

a burial mask

to keep the evil out.

To raise walled cities

stone & green with rain.

To reconcentrate (to hamlet).

Keep the evil in.

Upang maging o hindi maging.

To infight. Backstab.

Resort to guerrilla warfare.

To lay it all on questionable wagers.

Submit too readily to fate.

To find no comfort in shade

the Pasig sluggish under the Jones Bridge.

Boys jump down into the weedy slush

brown-limbed, laughing.

To count them, body by body.

Rushing in the ears

like water.

ultra / sound

ki-bo1the heart strong & fast


ki-bo ki-bo2pressed by echo
into light


ki-bo ki-bo ki-bo3he stirs when you’re

for the moth-


ki-bo ki-bo  ki-bo ki-bour music

is a homophone
for blood-sound

Ilongo for

pregnant is pregnant
with song

1 Ilongo (noun): the sound the heart makes
2 Tagalog (verb): to move
3 Japanese (noun): hope

Chris Santiago ’s poems, short stories, and criticism have appeared in FIELD, Copper Nickel, Pleiades, The Asian American Literary Review, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from Kundiman and the Mellon Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies. Born and raised in the Twin Cities, he received his PhD in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California and is an assistant professor in the English department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. His debut poetry collection, TULA, was selected for the 2016 Lindquist & Vennum Prize, and will be published by Milkweed Editions in December.


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