Edge [poem] by Sheila Black

You get weary of the pod of stars,
of the words for bruise that resemble flowers.
This is a drier country. It holds what
has been for years; I can see your fingerprints
on the ghost town glass, blown thick from
sand, some kind of ordinary miracle of
heat; smeared with mud, the faces behind
soft and gorgeous as fading camellias.
I never liked how they brown so fast.
Doesn’t matter—they don’t grow here, only the
grittier blooms, the ocotillo that concentrates
a flame into each prickly flower, pink
feathers of mesquite like some ungainly
crane or dodo turned vegetal, the wiry red
wood of osier. I would weave a body of this
and leave it behind like a scarecrow with her
arms spread to sky. Love is past for me, I mean,
and you the last gasp like the single mouthful
of water that I hold in my mouth a long time,
afraid to swallow. Such losing takes practice.
You know it as possibility but for a long time,
like the slick-suited gambler, you trust the flick
of your wrist, fist clutching tight the pearls
of dice. Snake-eyes. It happens like that—with
terrible suddenness, the dull thud of the door
of the bank vault closing. In the mirror a folding
around the neck, the arms. The minor humiliations.
The cashier in the market who calls you Ma’am, tells
the boy you will need help with your bags.
Sharp as a curved tooth, the way it takes you, for
who would choose this? And yet a strange
sweetness in the act of giving over—to fade
as the palmful of water I pour from my hand
onto the hot car sizzles a moment, and when I
look down again—it is just gone, the sky god
gathering what she can.

 

Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Refer: This poem put the editors in mind of Dustin Beall Smith’s essay “Grace.”]

Sheila Black is the author of House of Bone, Love/Iraq, and Wen Kroy. She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, named a 2012 Notable Book for Adults by the American Library Association. A 2012 Witter Bynner Fellow, selected by Philip Levine, she lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs Gemini Ink, a literary arts center.

Image by lizwest