Chance Born by Mia Leonin


This stunning collection wakens in us the miracle and mystery of becoming, being, and belonging — common to our shared humanity across cultures.  From mothers and soldiers, war to birth, Missouri to Iraq, these poems are more than mere portraiture; they are sculptural, creating a three-dimensional sense of the many lives and places that Leonin has chiseled with her metaphorical muscle and carved with her deft language.
    —    Richard Blanco, Fifth Presidential Inaugural Poet

Mia Leonin’s Chance Born begins with the birth of her daughter, a moment which launches this collection of poems into profound questions about relations — children and the worlds of want and violence; words and the redemptive power of language; identity without the fabric of family. Visceral, lyrical and metaphorical, these poems radiate — like the intricate branches of a marvelous family tree.   
    —    Valerie Martínez, author of Each and Her


Before Eve Was a Palindrome

La necesidad es la madre de la invención.

Before fig leaf and corset,
she shaped herself into a pear,  

her proportions, a beguiling
target for the spear.

Tugging on a single thread,
Eve unraveled a labyrinth.

From sun-dripped wax,
she fashioned a candle.

Eve added water to meat
and named it stew. Wise and otherwise,

she looked into the hand’s hungry hollow
and invented the spoon.

Before plague and pestilence, Eve called
trans-fats lard and micro greens leaves.

She saw sea-level rise sloshing
in the seal’s glossy-orbed stare.

She predicted financial collapse
in the glint of Sacajawea’s gold coin.

In the moonlit snarl of a dog’s fang, she foretold
cyberbullying and unlimited filibusters.

God in reverse reads muzzle and leash.
Unlike evil, devil, and every other backmasking

Stairway-to-Heaven invention, Eve
was never meant to be read backwards.


My Father in a Fourth of July Public Radio Spot

A voice shoots like a javelin from my radio.
It is the whine and pull, the stammer

of my father trying to speak English.
I love this country. His voice trudges

toward meaning through his thick,
sludgy immigration — past the women

whose cunts he thought smelled rotten,
past the patients for whom he prescribed

thorazine, electroshock, and other brain-
splintering cures for loneliness,

past the unclaimed children, now middle-aged,
almost-success stories who sometimes hear him

speaking through walls.
By the time he has finished,

the paradise of this country has wilted into paraíso.
Of course it has. It always does.

All of this on the radio —
and me, having never met him.






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