Cover Photo: Tallulah Pomeroy
Tallulah Pomeroy

When a Mystery Illness Strikes

This is what I have learned from the past months of pain: We are made of equal parts death and life.

Do you have a black eye?

Should I buy a cane?If it helps

You need a brain biopsyAnd you need chemo meds.

He was doing something elseIt’s not what you say it iswetback whore cripple.

What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you? I know what you should do. What did you do to yourself? Maybe it’s allergies. Maybe it’s mental illness.

Have you talked to your psychiatrist about this?Are you stressed before this happens, or after? Is this because of stress? Tell me how this is not real, how you made it up in your sick mind.

Who do I remind you of?Thank youI know you want to help

You need to have a long talk with God

What do you wantWhat thing do you want?

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
be acceptable to you,
Adonai, my Rock and my Redeemer.

V’-heg-yon li-bi l’-fa-ne-cha A-do-nai, tzu-ri, A-do-nai Tzu-ri v’-go-a-li, v’-go-a-li

Take itTake more.

Leslie Contreras Schwartz is a multi-genre writer, a 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, and the 2019-2021 Houston Poet Laureate. She is the winner of the 2022 C&R Press Nonfiction Prize for From the Womb of Sky and Earth, a lyrical memoir (Fall, 2023). She is also the author of five collections of poetry, including The Body Cosmos (Mouthfeel Press, 2024). Her work has appeared in AGNI, Missouri Review, Iowa Review, Pleiades, and more. Recent work has been featured with the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day. Contreras Schwartz is currently a poetry and nonfiction faculty member at Alma College's MFA low-residency program in creative writing. Photo credit: Candance Sherman

She lives in Houston with her husband and three children.