It’s not every book of poetry that includes an “Ode to Body Armor.” But then, it’s not every poet whose experience in academia includes a stint at the police academy.
The poems of Sarah Cortez are tough-minded, verbally supple, and often deeply (even explicitly) erotic: You want me to come/ to you each night, drop my gun belt,/ lie along your muscled length . . .
And each of these fifty lyric poems (with titles such as “Rosie Working Plain Clothes,” “Las Tías,” and “Attempt to Locate”) displays Cortez’s many facets: the street smarts of a law-enforcement officer (deputy constable in Houston’s Harris County); the bilingual vocabulary of a proud Mexican American; the coolly analytic eye of a corporate accountant (as she once was); the linguistic dexterity of a Latin teacher (another former occupation); and the frank sensuality of a strong and spirited woman.
Surveying fellow officers, friends, criminals, lovers, strangers, and family members, Sarah Cortez has learned that a bullet-proof vest may¾with luck¾protect the body, but keeping the heart from harm is a chancier and more mysterious affair. Long after the pages of How to Undress a Cop have been turned, her unique and distinctive voice will stir the blood and haunt the memory.