Gloria, who received a Fulbright Fellowship in 1992, was born in Manila and grew up in San Francisco. This collection was selected as one of the National Poetry Series winners in 1999, and most of the poems were published previously in a variety of literary periodicals and anthologies. As is often the case with those who straddle the boundary between cultures, between past and present, and between urban and rural sensibilities, Gloria shifts from one frame of reference to the other. He does so with an easy grace, in the manner of a child who slips unconsciously from speaking one language with friends to another with grandparents. But this apparent fluidity and careless ambidexterity mask a deeper wound: the pain felt by those in exile, by those who find their way around in two different places but are at home in neither. “If there were two worlds we are made to inhabit,” the poet admits, “I would prefer the one I was forced to leave.” His verses are filled with likable and memorable souls: his grandmother, who sagely declares that “every culture’s worst enemy is its own people,” a mechanic on his way to a lovers’ rendezvous who is cut down by a bullet through his heart. There is the “tight-fisted dowager” who rises every day at six o’clock for Mass and the “women in heavy make-up [who] wait in well-worn dresses” outside the US military base at Subic Bay.
Gloria’s poetry is rich in everyday detail, yet the experiences he relates are pertinent to more than a Filipino-American audience. The exile of which he writes is our diaspora from Eden and the lost connections to our past.