I know Jessica Helen Lopez mostly through peripheral contact at national slam events, and I've seen her perform several times. We've never had more than a brief conversation here and there, but she's a woman I've always admired from afar. And Lopez is definitely a woman, with all the power and maturity inherent in that word.
That kind of power resonates in Lopez's poems as well. Her work has a clarity of purpose, an elemental intensity that hits upon the most important aspects of being human. Lopez's metaphors, though, are innovative and playful, tempering her sense of truth with mischievous vision. I also love that Lopez is unafraid of politics, personal and social; her work has real backbone. I think these are two of the major reasons that make Lopez worth watching: her immense compassion and social conscience coupled with play and tenderness towards the beautiful and the small. Look for her book, and her work.
The evening that I notice my girl is changing, sprouting
with hair into womanhood, I see crisp lines like
small black lightning erupt from the inverted
spoon of her left armpit.
The heat presses against the window a boiling
summer monsoon and she is a sweat tangle
fast asleep on my side of the bed.
The butter pallor of reading lamp permeates
every corner of my bedroom illuminating the
salt beads that congregate at her temples.
I sit awhile and watch her.
One arm is thrown above her head as if
she aims to catch a pop fly in her unconsciousness.
The other arm pressed to the small bell of her rib cage.
The arm is a small branch a bird might perch upon.
The chest rises and falls like a doughy bread.
This is my life’s purpose,
monitor the breath, the hair
that takes to her legs like
a brush fire across California
summer hills. To move the
lithe body from one bed to another.
To notice the faint shadow like a dusty
charcoal above the lip.
I know her body like I know my own.
I am prepared to be prepared for this shift,
this inevitable change of
the cosmological order of her being.
I am her ordained keeper of body.
And it is when I know,
that I must let go
that the real dying will begin
That mother and daughter diploid cells
will have truly separated into their
own acts of insular creation.
That I must step away and watch
from the light house where all old
Now, I hold the golden meiosis
of her body close, this sweaty sleeping girl who almost
slips through my arms, and walk out of the buttery light
of into that greatness of the long dark hallway.
Author Bio - Jessica Helen Lopez is a nationally recognized award-winning poetry slam champion, and holds the title of 2012 Women of the World (WOW) City of ABQ Champion. She’s also a member of the Macondo Foundation. Founded by Sandra Cisneros, it is an association of socially engaged writers united to advance creativity, foster generosity, and honor community. Her first collection of poetry, Always Messing With Them Boys (West End Press, 2011) made the Southwest Book of the Year reading list and was also awarded the Zia Book Award presented by NM Women Press. She is the founder of La Palabra – The Word is a Woman collective created for and by women and gender-identified women. Lopez is Ted Talk speaker alumni and her talk is entitled, Spoken Word Poetry that Tells HERstory. You may find some of Lopez’s work at these sites –LaPalabra.abqnorthwest.com, thebakerypoetry.com, and asusjournal.org. Her work has also been anthologized in A Bigger Boat: The Unlikely Success of the Albuquerque Slam Scene (UNM Press), Earth Ships: A New Mecca Poetry Collection (NM Book Award Finalist), Tandem Lit Slam (San Francisco), Adobe Walls, Malpais, and the upcoming Courage Anthology: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls (Write Bloody Press).