Leslie Contreras Schwartz


Leslie Contreras Schwartz was born in Houston, Texas, with Mexican American and Mexican roots going back several generations in Houston and Texas. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s at Rice University. Her fourth book, Black Dove / Paloma Negra (FlowerSong Press, 2020) was named a finalist for the Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters in 2020. She is also the author of Fuego (St. Julian Press, 2016); Nightbloom & Cenote (SJP, 2018), a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky; and Who Speaks for Us Here (Skull + Wind Press, 2020). A member of the Macondo Writers’ Collective, Contreras Schwartz works in communities teaching writing workshops and creating art-making and storytelling opportunities. She is currently a faculty member at Alma College’s MFA low-residency program in creative writing. She served as Poet Laureate of Houston from 2019 to 2021 and received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship in 2021. Source

A Body’s Universe of Big Bangs

A body must remind itself

to keep alive, continually,

throughout the day.


Even at night while sleeping,

proteins, either messenger, builder,

or destroyer, keeps busy


transforming itself or other substances.

Scientists call these reactions

—to change their innate structure,

dictated by DNA—cellular frustration,


a cotton-cloud nomenclature for crusade,

combat, warfare, aid, unification,

scaffold, or sustain.


Even while the body sleeps, a jaw slackened

into an open dream, inside is the drama

of the body’s own substances meeting


one another, stealing elements,

being changed elementally,

altered by a new story


called chemical reaction.

A building and demolishment,

creating or undoing,


the body can find movement,

functioning organs, resists illness—

or doesn’t. Look inside every living being


and find this narrative of resistance,

the live feed of being resisted.

The infant clasping her fist


or the 98-year-old releasing

hers. This is how it should be,

we think, a long story carried out


to a soft conclusion. In reality,

little deaths hover and nibble,

little births opening mouths

and bodies the site of stories


and the tales given to us, and retold, retold,

never altered, and the ones forgotten,

changed, unremembered


until this place is made of only

ourselves. Our own small dictators,

peacemakers, architects, artists.


A derelict cottage,

a monumental church

struck in gold, an artist’s studio


layered with paints and cut paper,

knives and large canvas—


the site the only place

containing our best holy song:


I will live. I will live. I will keep living.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Body & Body Image

Death & Loss

Science & Climate

Literary Devices:


the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of words appearing in succession


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


a recurrence of the same word or phrase two or more times