BY LYDIA A. CYRUS
Sarah A. Chavez’s new collection of poems Hands That Break and Scar (Sundress Publications, 2017) has just been recently released. Like a lot of people I know, I pre-ordered my copy quite some time ago when I found out I could do so. Sarah’s chapbook All Day, Talking came out in 2014. I read that chapbook cover to cover one evening while taking a warm bath, something I used to do often when I had more time to read for leisure. All Day, Talking was so moving and relevant for me that I carried it with me to the bathtub and didn’t move again until it was finished. So when one of my friends mentioned to me that Sarah had her first full length book coming out this fall I made sure to keep my eyes peeled for the release date.
Hands is set up in five sections, each beginning with a quote. Section five begins with Lucille Clifton’s wise words: "come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed." Each section opens up a part of Sarah’s identity and her memories. The opening poem, “The Mexican-American Parade,” tells of a moment in her youth that sticks out to her. She writes about her identity as a mestiza and the blending of cultures: both American and Mexican. She describes seeing the American flag and the Mexican flag together and how these flags flow in the wind together: blending.
Each poem relates in some way to identity in terms of sisterhood, womanhood, and being apart of a culture. My personal favorite of the collection is the poem "Doing Laundry," which deals with the issues of becoming a woman and growing up as well as the idea of becoming a mother some day. Sarah’s friend mentions to her that she’s "super good" at doing the laundry and preparing meals. "You’ll make a good mom," her friend says. The response that Sarah brought tears to my eyes: "I’m never going to be a mother, I said, knowing neither she, nor anyone else, would believe me."
Hands That Break and Scar gives voice to each of us, if we are willing to believe so. Chavez writes about things each of us can relate to and find meaning in. Her poems have always found a way to nestle into my brain and heart and stay there long after I’ve put them down. The sounds and sights each poem provides paints a picture of life. Pictures of life that can be overlooked sometimes. I would encourage any woman (or man) who has ever felt lonely, empowered, or anyone who has looked backward in time and found old scars there that have not yet been explored to grab a copy of this collection. Celebrate the voice of a mestiza woman who has something to say to each of us. Celebrate her work because it is universal and rich and because it matters so much in our world today. Because it will always matter.
Lydia A. Cyrus (STAFF WRITER) is a creative nonfiction writer and poet from Huntington, West Virginia. Her work as been featured in Thoreau's Rooster, Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Albion Review, and Luna Luna. Her essay "We Love You Anyway," was featured in the 2017 anthology Family Don't End with Blood which chronicles the lives of fans and actors from the television show Supernatural.
She lives and works in Huntington where she spends her time being politically active and volunteering. She is a proud Mountain Woman who strives to make positive change in Southern Appalachia. She enjoys the color red and all things Wonder Woman related! You can usually find her walking around the woods and surrounding areas as she strives to find solitude in the natural world. Twitter: @lydiaacyrus