Deborah Schwartz is the author of two full-length poetry collections: Wind of the House, Voice of the Stream, of the Dream That you Dream, While We Turn You Around (Kattywompus Press, 2022,) and A Girl Could Disappear Like This (Kattywompus Press, 2019.) She is a Professor in the English Department at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA, where she is a founding member of the Sum Poets, a collective of gender fluid, queer, and female student and faculty poets. She lives with her wife on the Boston Harbor in East Boston across from the tall buildings that make up the city.
TWENTY-SIX YEARS AGO, I TOOK HER TO A MOVIE
hoping for entertainment and happy with the candy.
I thought that we could make out, but the movie set was Poland.
1939 while the German tanks came rolling.
In the dark together not touching, she cried a little as the last Klezmer
played. In the lobby, an old person walking to the bathroom
fell upon her. She helped the man straighten back out
and I fell for her for good.
Great Uncle Yitzcok with those tattooed numbers on your inner arm
how you laugh like salt stippled across a sky. Look it's snow, Izzie.
So gentle it melts on our jacket collars.
Though my aching is utterly my own, there’s the archaic evening sky
cinema screen reaching me. Telegraphically, I am listening
while everything is speaking.
HOLDING A SWORD
I cut out the tongues
of my mother's
devil-lineage to feel free,
to see what grows there.
What grows there
is loneliness. I ring out
my loneliness to the great
murky East Boston Ocean
silently, while planes fly
so close I can almost
touch one. Body, move
through your childhood
house, flashlight strapped
to your ribs. Reveal yourself.
For the moon reveals herself
as the wingspan of a great
bird. I may now feel
of language written
in the hot blue
alphabet, a plunge
of my own sword
into my own ribs
to quiet the beating
of frayed wings
while I watch the bird
leave my grandmother's
grave to circle the forbidden
& leftover heat of dusk.
though I love you
I hate you, and me. Ma,
Grandma tied you to a chair.
Ma, you taught me to fight
but only for others. Nancy,
Irish Catholics & Jews,
women's hands, tying
their own mouths
with twine and wire.
& Nancy Kayne.
I peer at the great blue
East Boston Ocean,
while a girl sings
out to the waves.
I ring out
to the great blue
East Boston ocean
while a plane comes
so very close, I do
touch it. When I release
the plane from my hands,
I hold my mother’s soul,
so it won't hurt so.
IT'S NOT EASY WHEN GERTRUDE STEIN IS YOUR MOTHER
Round house of branches
a weeping tree that moves in the yellow wind of spring
while we each feel the mother
though would never, ever say so.
In my house, I hear the heart of the next-door neighbor
as I watch him drink water from his red metal water bottle, dented.
I wave my hands
and stick my head back into the desert of my neck.
This man and I can run with horses in our own meadows
where we are given a jade necklace each, that of course, we keep.
While I attack a building
and kung fu a cloud, I am also becoming
a pauper-teacher, a disbeliever
the mother of a new language
but not entirely.
I HAVE TO KISS YOUR MOUTH TO UNGLUE MY OWN
I bring a bouquet of Queen Anne's Lace
sputtering an aura of fluttering butterflies.
As you hold my gift, I let you watch me
undress, save a lapis necklace.
I am an owl that has lost a wing then regrows it.
As I talk my silver words hurt. Come here.
Let me take some words back. A drop of water
on my finger. The river we will swim in when
we're done hurting. I can't stop myself from freeing
the necklace, pointing the Monarchs
toward Chile while a mustard seed propagates
through air, while anti-love plays a made-up instrument
including us. In the dark, you go out for your run.
I eat a persimmon to numb my tongue. Nancy,
nothing and no one takes this long to return
except stars in their attraction to the earth
as they slumber in the ground to reburst into
a wet air full of bees. I am so unaccustomed
to having my beautiful body. I don't like falling stars,
their extinguishing for good. Nancy, please return.
Help me stay focused. I am worried about the fish
and oak. Hey, small kingdom, you’ve come back.
I can't help but bring you someone trying to be me.
Look Nancy, I'm balancing a cup of milk.