Weep Holes in Body

My body remembers itself distantly, humming while I pick out soap, detergent, floor cleaner and scouring sponges. I do not want to hear stories about my body while I am shopping to strip my house of dirt, praying for that future of mint clean and green to seep into me. Then — its blow made of black and silvery fists, pain appears, in aisle 5. A story that my body tells me in the highest pitched sound, a crushing warble and hiss, hunching me over the shopping cart saying: Listen to me. No, do not even try to squeeze out the sound & crush of lungs and muscles and throat, its crumbling paper wad. You don’t want to write this opera, conduct my scratchy song? Deal with it. I stand mute. I stand mute. I stand mute.


Every aisle fills with water. I float to pain, rise to its surface, a blubbery body. I am made into its throne, its trap door. Terrifying, this surrender to a creature born out of me. And all I wanted was a simple child with a face, hands and four limbs. Instead, monstrous and beautiful, hitched to my hip in grand deformity, I am its compulsory guardian and servant. I’m afraid of its living with the same intensity as I am afraid of losing my own biological children. It knows what I am capable of doing in my mind. I am afraid this pain is tethered to that see-saw of chutes and black holes hiding in my neurons, it’s circuitous maze that leads back to something I always but can’t find.


I clutch to the shopping cart bar, its metal grip: Holy mother of Medrol-pack steroids albuterol morphine codeine anti-inflammatory antibiotics methotrexate infusions and all its viles and IV altars. I want to cut out this sickness out of my body and bury its bones, its scattering of calacas rooted in the city of my chest. Give me the knife. I will be the surgeon. I want to look at this Beast — I want to see what it feels like in my quivering palm. Breathe out in a whistle. What small thing commands so much from me and pretends so arrogantly that I am not at its mercy. Breath in and shut my eyes to how it turns me into a sopping dishrag while I am reading to my son, washing my daughter’s hair. A prison of Holy Here and Now, this nightmare made of stitched flesh, fur and infant’s feet, my terrible lithopedion, please do not make me your mother. Please for this next breath. I do not know how to turn away a child but I will. Blow out, slowly, relax grip on the cart’s bar. Accept now that my body, our bodies, are the weep holes of the Universe to which it pours itself through. Breathe into all of it gushing, the tiny cracks opening foundation, the dry walled skeleton pulsing with sacred knowledge. Let it pour, let it crack. Feel this dervish of pulling, as I resist its gravity with all the force I can. Pay for the groceries. Pick up the children. Feed them. Comfort them. All the crackling in the background, bringing me to sit by my son’s bed at night and we sing, we sing, me, my baby and that dark surge. It is a holy sound, a broken choir of three.


Leslie Contreras Schwartz is a fifth-generation Houstonian of Mexican heritage. Her essays and poetry have recently appeared in Catapult, The Collagist, Tinderbox and Rogue Agent. Her book, Fuego, was published by Saint Julian Press in 2016 and her second book, Nightbloom & Cenote, is forthcoming from the same press in 2018. An excerpt from her novel-in-progress, City of Girls, will be included in the Houston Noir anthology, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda (Akashic Press, 2019). Schwartz earned an MFA in poetry from The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in 2011, and graduated from Rice University in 2002. She teaches writing and works as a manuscript consultant and writing coach through Writespace and other organizations.