Wind of the House, Voice of the Stream

“Schwartz creates a haunting and idiosyncratic Oratorio in which the individual voices open out to include a chorus of women and men, and the voices of “The Market” and Mother Earth herself (who warns of ‘weather that is paper on fire.’) This brilliant stroke allows her to interweave the most pressing issues of the day—immigration, run-amok capitalism, and the climate cliff on which we live.”
– Ellen Doré Watson author, pray me stay

Devora Overhears Maria Tell Her Daughter of What They Left Behind

Shoes with straps for dancing, a cabinet holding a red bowl of salt.

A brook with you, my daughter, and the other girls, mostly unclothed
       but not naked floating on your backs holding hands-
               one swimming toward the bank away from the town.
       A big laugh, with Ramona always an arms-length away from us—
               her laugh, and shoes with straps.

               We have left the ancestors
        whose bones are buried deep in the ground
        the cayenne and chillis near the doorposts, the doorposts,
        the turquoise of the tiles to ward off the evil eye, the evil eye
               the sweet cows with their eyelashes like spider webs
               the spider webs and healing properties of water
               the blue dart bush, the thorns of the bush, the balsam trees
                       the flor de izote
                                the dotted eggs of the pecking hens
                                               the dried cacti, their eternal cycles
                                                       of thinness
                                                               then yellow flowers.

I found the boy’s body in the brook, his hands eaten by fish.
Then the whirring of dropping bombs,
one splattering a cow in the high mountain pasture.

We left the hunger at night so talkative. 
We left the quiet of sleep as a chased dream,
a red curtain, a gold ring, a rose of paper. 

The land, granite packed hills, grassy knolls, silica, the harvesting, and planting,
the rocks in the earth, the breaking of our backs to farm rows of corn,
yucca, other roots with names you must remember, mi’ja.

The great mother who kept us, held us at times with unrelenting heat—
her abundance of rain or dryness and a cold so cold that our teeth shattered
like the dead
before they die.
               And always the brook, the brook, drying then reemerging
producing her banked weeping tree, the Maquilishuat, the tree that loved everyone—
(no matter what was done to them, no matter what they did,)
the tree that still calls your name, and mine, mi’ja, all our dispersed names.

“Deborah Schwartz’s stunning new collection addresses the role of witness in the face of pervasive violence, interrogating white guilt, and cultural appropriation. The “chorus” articulates the pain of living in a world blasted by inequity, racism, poverty, and greed. Schwartz offers her luminous poetry as a portal for healing—acknowledging how often we misunderstand and misinterpret each other—even as we struggle to connect.”
-Kelly Fordon, author, Goodbye Toothless House

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