B&W circle

Short Talks

Sarah Schwartz

                        After Anne Carson

On Rabbis

They come in two sizes: tiny and towering. A tiny rabbi hears God. A towering rabbi sees Him. Moses was one who saw, bush ablaze. My father took recordings of his father mumbling kaddish. His father, he learned too late, was not God.

On Last Names

The family names belong to men. Even my grandmother’s maiden name belongs to her father. I am marked by a history of such exchanges: name for bed, name for bread. My great-great-great grandmother whispers to her daughter. This exchange, too, has marked me. It’s a story about strength and salt. Everything the body creates tastes of it.

On Revelation

She had mastered the charade of hide and seek. She knew how to coax the secret shame and magnify it so that no one would again look at words as innocent. Then she became a Buddhist and grew tired of the terms: shame, innocence. That we breathe makes us praiseworthy. That we breathe makes us blameworthy. She had nothing else with which to approach so she made the approach itself her subject of inquiry. Look, she’s searching for the closet, she’s stowing herself away between Mother’s old dresses, long out of style. Look, she’s casing Mother’s bedroom, is distracted by the lovely shape of Mother’s perfume. It looks like a skyscraper cinched at the waist. It smells like her head in Mother’s lap. Inhale, exhale. Now she checks the closet, glimpses her small feet, pulls back garments to reveal herself.

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Does a man imagine
what passes with milk?
What awful love we have to give.

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                        “I am a woman who hurries through her prayers”       -Gwendolyn Brooks

Scraped up news from the plastered face of my mother’s history, I
listen with a breath bent ear to that criminal night, in which I was (still am)
a sorrowful smudge, a press release, a long duress (nine hours, at least), a
failed escape from the solitary confinement of my mother’s body, this woman
driving into the dark, her hand fumbling towards the passenger’s seat. This woman who wants to touch the body she once thought was hers (is mine), the body that hurries
to leave itself there, slow and relenting, to let itself be touched. Through
the grumble of the engine and my sodden dumbness (Don’t mumble), I hear her
secret desires demand reparations for her labor. They are saying, Your body was my prayer.

Sarah Schwartz hails from the Midwest and currently lives in Baltimore, where she teaches teenagers to tap into their angst and find complexity there. She received her MFA in poetry
from Brown University. Her current chapbook, “Mothered Being in the Garden of Good Grief,” is looking for a good home. You can find her poems and critical writing online and in print—on the Everyday Genius website, in Catch Up, and elsewhere.