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  • Untitled Document



    Sunday, Sept 15, 1963, 10:22 am

    16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama



    She’s hoping that cute boy she likes

    gonna be here today, sitting in a front pew.

    Maybe she’ll have the nerve to say hi.


    Cynthia Wesley, age 14


    Say her name.



    Junie, my sister, always rereading her Bible!

    Wish I didn’t have to sing today. Such

    a nice day out. Uh-oh, there go lil’ Denise

    with her sash come all undone. Better go

    help her out.


    Addie Mae Collins, age 14


    Say her name.



    She loves singing in choir with all the older girls.

    Lucky for her Addie Mae treats her like  

    a little sister. Helped her tie that pesky sash,

    always coming loose.


    (Carole) Denise McNair, age 11

    Say her name.



    Mama, can I go on over

     to some of them meetings here

    at church, all about rights? No,

    Mamas says. Best keep quiet.

     Stay home. Don’t make waves.

    Don’t like that Dr. King much. But Mama,

    he’s my hero!


    Carole Robertson, age 14



    Say her name. 

    Never stop saying their names.




    Untitled Document




    All morning in cold December sun after days of rain,

    over and over the wild geese swarm, a cacophony

    of  joy here in New York’s center, with its hand-print

    of lakes, where wide wings take them into light

    that burnishes breasts, between two sanctuaries.

    Their wave of return always happens around four,

    just before the curtain of black falls, fast and completely—


    just the way night happened that time you traveled alone

    along California’s Central Coast in search of monarchs

    and hummingbirds. You’d finished some pie at Appleseed’s,

    chatting up the young server, telling her to follow her heart

    to art school, no matter what, and when you leave  

    an unanticipated tsunami of darkness sweeps up and beaches you

    on an unfamiliar road with only the puny beam of your

    headlights to cut through that otherness, you wonder

    which way to turn, which thoroughfare to follow.


    Driving on blindly, fighting panic, desperate for a beacon,

    a sign, a refuge, all of a sudden—the way each almost-winter

    dusk those geese return—you spy that blessed rectangle

    of metal perched on a stake: Route 101 S.

    With a gleeful bursting heart you take that road

    all the way back from San Luis Obispo to Pismo Beach,

    to the room in the Best Western with the balcony

    whose sliding glass door opens to the sea below—

    to whose rhythmic music you slide deep,

    into the flutter of wings that are your dreams.




    Untitled Document




    Water Bearers


    like women in Senegal

    together toward the fire house

    these mothers and their scampering kids

    make their way  much laughter 

    ribald jokes  what else

    would you have them do?





    again and again

    the handle may be creaked on

    opening and opening

    nothing changes  orange

    liquid spills forth

    brown hands scoop it up

    a face cools  then burns





    thirst is our first desire

    superseding all others

    how far would you crawl

    toward a quenching?

    what if the clump of towering

    palms just ahead

    only continues to shimmer

    as it moves on and on

    beyond you?






    do you let your baby gather

    dirt into her pores rather

    than sluice it away with

    what might keep her later

    from books or school

    or even speech?





    you are seated at a long table

    crystal goblets at each place

    way down the groaning board

    where some who do not recognize

    you are placed, the goblets glisten

    by candlelight poured full of stars

    back down by you and your kind

    the glasses hold no light

    when the toast is called for

    yours are too heavy to lift

    About The Author

    Patricia Roth Schwartz

    Patricia Roth Schwartz is a poet, a writer of fiction and memoir, and a workshop leader/ teacher, who resides in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Widely published in literary journals, she has also had published 7 volumes of poetry, plus a collection of short fiction which won a national award. Schwartz has given numerous readings of her work. She has taught for the Writers & Books Literary Center in Rochester, NY, as well as offered workshops throughout the Finger Lakes for many diverse venues, for over 25 years.  Many of these events have been funded by Poets & Writers, Inc. Her work appears in the Story Walk and Poets’ Walk installations in Rochester. For 14 years she volunteered weekly at Auburn Correctional Facility, in Auburn NY, a maximum-security men’s prison, conducting a poetry workshop with inmates; she has also edited 4 volumes of their work which have been published. She facilitates a Writers’ Support Group in Waterloo, NY, funded by Poets & Writers, which is in its 10th year. Schwartz is a co-founder of The Literary Guild of the Finger Lakes, a grass-roots organization dedicated to creative expression through the arts. Her most recent works are The Crows of Copper John: a History of Auburn Prison in Poems, Know Better: poems of resistance, and Soul Knows No Bars: a Writer’s Journey Doing Poetry with Inmates, a full-length prose memoir.