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Review by Christine Fojas

The Push and Pull

Do you see the mirror at the end of this long hallway?

The title of Luisa A. Igloria’s work, “Late Reflection” makes one think of a person of a certain age looking back on their life. And yet the poem turns this expectation on its head by focusing primarily on a future self. It makes me wonder if it is our natural impulse, as humans, to live beyond our current set of circumstances. How much of us is mired in the muddy swamps of the past, and how much is floating ahead in the nebulous plane called the future?

The poem is an exploration of a self, but there is deliberate distance and separation between the reflection and the speaker, both in the repeated phrases “in this version of me” and “by that time.” The use of this and that feels like two movements, pulling towards and pushing away from the reflection.

Do we define desire by coupling it with its opposite?

The reflected self is placed in the future using the phrase “by that time,” which gives a sense of wish-fulfillment in the poem. In the poem, the almost clichéd phrase “ghosts of the past” is made vivid and concrete by the physical effects ascribed to it, as well as an emotion. The ghosts are the ones who are tired and not the speaker, but they feel conflated, especially with the echoes of other images of not smiling and the bed. Yes, the poem is about a future self, but the past and present remains with us. After all, most wishes for the future are about rewriting or overcoming the past/present.

I have my own never-ending wish-list not just of things, but also experiences and achievements. Perhaps there are ghostly “instead ofs” lurking in the shadows of these desires, colored with a little bit of self-hate.

But my ambitions are always ambivalent, at times turning inwards, then turning out to reach for something a little bit beyond me.

One image in the poem feels the most active to me: the speaker [turning] “in a frenzy all night.” That reveals the speaker’s mindset as someone ready to be left alone, to rest, to become ordinary. 

In the lines “rain is no longer the only mercurial element and onions do not make wounds weep,” both rain and weeping equates to sadness, but each statement feels contradictory in terms of emotion. As if they are wishing to be both more emotional, and less, more in control, and less.

"What’s left is some light by which to see…” The use of some here situates the scene at twilight, giving a sense of dimness, of just enough light. And what’s left also gives a sense of time passing, hinting at loss without explanations.

And as for seeing, “I am not the only one” is the fulcrum phrase upon which the sentence hinges. This expression feels almost wistful in tone, putting into words a desire to see others like them, to find connection, to find kin. And the use of the adjectives “slight” and “broken” adds to that sense of vulnerability.

Maybe finding others like us is the same as looking into that mirror. But will the reflection it carries cut us to shreds? Or will it give us permission to be our flawed selves?

Christine Fojas is a Filipino-Canadian hailing from Las Piñas City and currently living in Metro Vancouver. She has a BA in Comparative Literature from University of the Philippines and works as a library technician at Douglas College. A list of her publications can be found at her website. She is also on Twitter as @chrisfojas. She is a regular contributor for Marias at Sampaguitas.

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