Driving through Louisville

       Friday 2011, Chicago
Razor slices of red-tinted winter sky through the blinds, like verses of a waning fire. The snow still falls unabated. You can tell by the unbreaking silence.

       Saturday 0231, Indiana to Kentucky via the Kennedy Bridge
Crossed the Ohio River at 2:20 a.m. There was a parallel bridge, stayed by cables, a serene glow of powder-blue light over the dark surface of the water. I thought of Königsberg. In Euler’s resolution of the problem, that was the moment we switched the light on.

       Saturday 1148, downtown Louisville
Snowflakes the size of petals. Bringing the air to life like a dance of conciliatory words undone from a lingering burden. How flawed everything is, and how new.

       Saturday 1934, Kentucky to Indiana via the Lincoln Bridge
The winter night is so opaque the naked sky feels like a tunnel, and going through an actual tunnel feels like dawn breaking.

       Sunday 0811, road to Cincinnati
The fog held each subsequent mile, like a reverence. The road is a long, winding aisle in a quiet cathedral; the morning a religion, down to the acoustics of us, brushing against the verdant pews.

Iris Orpi

Questions for Iris

On "Driving through Louisville"

What is the significance of the piece to you?

I was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to the US at age 30. Road trips in my new home country, especially outside of my home state of Illinois, are always significant to me because I get to be exposed to different things (snow, for instance) and the different ways that people live. My trip from Chicago to Louisville is one of those special times and I knew I had to write about it and document my experiences no matter how mundane they may be to others. 

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I wanted the descriptions of common things to be their own novelty without needing to present them as the traditional poem, so I wrote them in continuous lines like regular paragraphs. 

What was the process for creating this work?

The first few passages were actually text messages to a friend of mine who's based in the Philippines. I was trying to stay awake by texting and he was keeping me company 9,000 miles away while it was broad daylight where he was. Afterward I liked the way the passages went, and kept documenting my trip that way. Afterward I compiled the passages as a whole piece.

On "Benevolence ↯ Omnipotence"

What is the significance of the piece to you?

I have written quite a few poems about my experiences with sexual assault and its aftermath. This is one of those poems. I feel that this is an important conversation society needs to have and every additional voice and perspective is contributing to the conversation. For instance, my approaching the topic in this particular piece as the absence of God was my injured response to people in my church congregation who started treating me differently after they learned about my assault, as if what was done to me was my fault. I became paranoid for a while, wondering if they thought I had been a "bad" Christian that's why God let it happen to me? That isn't my truth. I don't know why, if God exists, he allows bad things to happen. So I thought I would narrate the experience like there was a fluke in what we were taught about God being both benevolent and omnipotent.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

I wrote the poem in what people would consider the "traditional" way. Possibly the one "cross-genre" or "hybrid" about the piece is my usage of a mathematical symbol on the title. I am a mathematician by education and profession, and have learned to see the elegance in the clinical, black-and-white nature of logical proofs that theoretical mathematicians write. I wanted to pull some of that coldness and precision given that the body of the poem is already full of emotion.

What was the process for creating this work?
I revisited, in my mind, the trauma of my sexual assault; tried my best to tap into the imagery of our traditional conditioning/understanding of what God is like; and wrote the opposite of that imagery as I narrated the assault. Afterward I decided on the title given the reason I wrote above. 

Iris Orpi is a Filipina writer currently living in Chicago, IL.

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