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Monsoon Stories 2020: 'Upon Leaving,' A Poem About The Arizona Monsoon

This monsoon season has been unlike any other. Most of us have spent it sequestered in our homes waiting for an end to this pandemic.

We’re anxious, and tired of waiting. Our situation seems endless. 

At the same time, we’re waiting for the clouds to gather, the winds to kick up, the lightning to strike for the rain. 

Every year, we wait for the storms — with dread or anticipation. We look to the skies, check our weather apps, and hope that relief from the heat will come.

“I am here. I am a whisper. My desert holds me at arm’s length, my stomach aches with exile," said Susanna Velarde Covarrubias, a poet, playwright, core artistic ensemble member of Teatro Bravo in Phoenix. And that is the beginning of her poem, “upon leaving.” 

It’s the heartbeat of a video piece artistic director Ricky Araiza and the rest of the Teatro Bravo players created for KJZZ's "Monsoon Stories" series this year.

The members of the Latino theater company, like other live performance artists, are feeling the sting of being unable to express their art on stage right now. But constraints often lead to new avenues of creativity, and that’s what Teatro Bravo brings to us today. Starting in their homes and neighborhoods, the theater ensemble picked up cameras to create a video capturing their inspiration from this mystical time of year.

They began with Susanna’s poem about the monsoon season, and then, they turned to movement.

upon leaving

I am here. I am a whisper. My desert holds me
at arm’s length, my stomach aches

with exile. I am here. I am an echo,
split from the hymn of this

brown dust, skin, tierra, mi tierra,
más mía que cualquier otra.

I see the bright thin stars, hear the high
cries of coyotes through my screen door.

This morning’s rain, the first of the season
has softened the steely brush, coaxed

the creosote to let go its subtle caramel scent.
The monsoon, our summer savior,

brings water and calls the earth to rise
in tall prayers, moving toward us, tower

and blast, soft scour of sand. We watch
small pathways open before us, walk,

the streets like labyrinths, walls
slide around us. Echoes within the walls

are psalms, our eyes are filled
with the feast and the song.

How many layers cover me, cling? How many
of these fine particles have entered 

my blood? It all flows, en mis venas, en mi risa,
la brisa, mis huesos, hechos de esta tierra.

Las pestañas de mi alma se abren,
y soy retoño, soy nueva, soy ancha y fuerte

como el sol y el saguaro, vieja
como las tortugas – siemprevivas

que cargan el mundo en sus espaldas.
In the fine grains of my sun-warm

skin, in the deep currents within,
se mueve el viento del monzón.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.