SALVE is a spoken word and musical piece that explores the insights, perspectives, and reflections of women who are returned war veterans. The performance allows us to bear witness to the lives and sacrifices of warriors and their families, the realities of returning to life after military service, and the costs of war on everyone. The spoken and sung text of the performance comes directly from interviews with women war vets and from poems/responses by poets Valerie Martínez and Jamie Figueroa. SALVE integrates composed and improvisational musical structures, poetry, personal stories, and songs composed by BING (led by Molly Sturges and Chris Jonas). SALVE is a Littleglobe production conducted by Molly Sturges and performed by an intergenerational ensemble of writers, performers, musicians and community members including Sturges, Jonas, Martínez, CK Barlow, Luis Guerra and Camilo Quiñones. The veterans interviewed for the piece include Christine McKinley, Sarah Langley and Tina Garñanez, among others.
EXCERPT FROM SALVE
Mami it came through your breast milk—
Don’t trust men.
Don’t trust your superior, he outranks you, he is not
the father you never had.
It came through the long nights, racing against nightmares.
Waking up shaking, in a sweat…
It came through the way she stood—
always aware of what was approaching from
behind. It came through the way she locked—
the doors and relocked the doors and relocked them
Put a chair against it.
Wedge it under the knob.
It came through in her scream—
exploding out of nowhere—
a long black throat of night.”
“Because my grandfather gave it to my father.
Because my father gave it to my brother.
Because my brother in the VA, wet and twisted in white sheets,
telling me I don’t want you to go, gives it to me–
I carry my little knife.
From Albuquerque to Texas to Alabama to Iraq,
because their hands held it,
because it swung in their pockets,
because it whittled down, cut through, pried open.
Because it’s rusted with jungle water, sweat, gunpowder, sand,
wiped clean of blood,
I carry my little knife.
Because it is heirloom, kitchen tool, talisman, totem.
Because it is a weapon and nobody told me I would need it
even at night to get from here to the bathroom
among the men in my own unit.
Because I tell myself, wet and twisting in the heat,
to keep my mind on the mission, the IED lying in wait, my name on a bullet.
Because at the right angle and if it was once more shiny,
it would be a mirror reminding me
who I am and why I’m here,
eye-light and maybe a tear flashing, the two of us—
little knife and soldier-woman–
saying I do it because I can do it, because I want the people I love to be safe.”