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By Leslie Contreras Schwartz:


We climb, all legs and hands
clutching for each other’s
eyes that we cannot see.
Before I see you, I have met you.

Clutching for each other’s eyes
& faces, your moon-shape up to my swollen one.
There is Green’s Bayou meeting thick vines,
plastic bags scuttling across the water.

Where I rode up and down the shore, swelling
with solid loneliness, clay and sand repeating.
Click and hum from houselights, grasshoppers rasping on water
the evening when my father was on his way

home, the twitch of his fingers a solid loneliness repeating
as he played piano on top of my fingers.
He picked up my mother’s hand on his way to some place
in the backseat of his car. She climbed out of her house for good.

She watches her shows, I hold onto her fingers
when she says to the television I always wanted to do that,
to a woman climbing out of sequins
dancing across the stage, face drowned out by light.

I always wanted to do this,
to ride my bike beside the wildness, the surge
& the bayou where drowning is so close to surviving
& my mother’s face as she washes the dishes by hand.

Baby, now you are born into this surge, a wild
search of dirt paths and bayous. You are a signal
sent back to the world, the hand
I held in the air, the shadow it made in the dusk

as I held onto the handlebar, a signal to myself
that I can conjure something out of barely.
Shadows and dusk.
Climbing, all my legs, your hands.

“Labour Pantoum” appears here with permission from the poet.

Leslie Contreras Schwartz has an MFA from Warren Wilson College in poetry, and her work has appeared in Pebble Lake Review, Southern Women’s Review, and the anthology Improbable Worlds, an Anthology of Texas and Louisiana Poets, edited by Martha Serpas and published by Mutabilis Press in 2012. She also writes personal essays and fiction. She lives in Houston.

Editor’s Note: There are few poetic forms as subtle and lulling as the pantoum. A skilled hand knows how to manipulate the repetition, creating ripples and echoes as lines reemerge in new contexts. Leslie Contreras Schwartz has just such a hand. Through the mists of the form a story emerges, elliptical and swaying. A story of what was and what was unrequited, “a solid loneliness repeating” in a world where “drowning is so close to surviving.” But also a story of what is and how it came to be. A world where the poet “can conjure something out of barely,” out of “Shadows and dusk.”

Want more from Leslie Contreras Schwartz?
Build the School – Leslie Contreras Schwartz’s Official Blog

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