“Wife’s Disaster Manual”

A Poem by Deborah Paredez

June 1, 2020  By Deborah Paredez

When the forsaken city starts to burn,
after the men and children have fled,
stand still, silent as prey, and slowly turn

back. Behold the curse. Stay and mourn
the collapsing doorways, the unbroken bread
in the forsaken city starting to burn.

Don’t flinch. Don’t join in.
Resist the righteous scurry and instead
stand still, silent as prey. Slowly turn

your thoughts away from escape: the iron
gates unlatched, the responsibilities shed.
When the forsaken city starts to burn,

surrender to your calling, show concern
for those who remain. Come to a dead
standstill. Silent as prey, slowly turn

into something essential. Learn
the names of the fallen. Refuse to run ahead
when the forsaken city starts to burn.
Stand still and silent. Pray. Return.


“Wife’s Disaster Manuel” is excerpted from Year of the Dog, copyright 2020 by Deborah Paredez, BOA Editions, Ltd.

Deborah Paredez
Deborah Paredez
Deborah Paredez is a poet, scholar, and critic whose work explores memory, the legacies of war, and feminist elegy. She is author of the critical study Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory and of the poetry collection This Side of Skin. A co-founder of CantoMundo and a Professor of Creative Writing and Ethnic Studies at Columbia University, she lives in New York City.

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