“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