Belly to the Brutal sings a corrido of the love between mothers and daughters, confronting the learned complicity with patriarchal violence passed down from generation to generation. This poetry edges into the borderlands, touching the realm of chora—humming, screaming, rhythm—transporting the words outside of patriarchal and racist constructs. Drawing from curanderisma and a revived wave of feminist brujería, Jennifer Givhan creates a healing space for Brown women and mothers. Each poem finds its own form, interweaving beauty and devastation to create a pathway out of the systems that have for too long oppressed women. The poems dwell in the thick language of "motherfear," "where love grows too / in the shining center of the wound." This poetry of invocation moves toward a transformation of violence that is ultimately redemptive.
Today I Learned the Word Mondegreen
Which means to misinterpret from mishearing
the lyrics in a way that gives new meaning
as I have long misheard the homophony of my heart.
I take it to mean the first flush of life after winter, that deep
need to keep growing after all your once-bright
blossoms have seeded or wilted away.
Have you ever needed to lie
flat as if dead against the rockmarked earth
& listen to the voices licking against the sky
your past shuffling through the leaves like a remix
till you finally realize what your life has meant—
& it aches?
When the truth comes, let it come like jewelweed
wilding beside the poison ivy. The antidote
within our reach.