Sheila Black


The hyssop trees lift their blue violets
like candles, a dark flaring against the
dust-streaked sky. How does the world feel so full
of offerings?  The way I set the table
for dinner guests, the dishes of salty nuts,
olives, the bell glasses to be filled
with the red-black wine. How can we dream
outside ourselves when we are so sated
with this world, with our transient hungers?
The wine on the tongue, which loosens
the voice so that a table might burst
into song or argument and later not know why.
The dream of the hyssop is shade and water.
It flowers in this desert regardless, drinking up the blazing
sun, the pooled shadows of the garden.

Stripping for bed, I stare at my own body
like an unknown in the mirror printed
with my children's jammy hands,
brown splotches against my pale
raddled skin, the stretchmarks along
my belly, lovely and delicate
as the silverfish that soundlessly
devour the pages of books, the libraries,
which yellow like autumn leaves,
the voices the wind pulls from
our throats joining us
to the birds, the trees, which
in their shivering sing their green hearts,

slow decay.  Our decay happens faster,
more visibly. Would I love the world
if I could not imagine it
without me?  The hyssops lift up their
blossoms like wings, like hands.
We cannot imagine the life of them.
The dark green light in the heat, the
flowers, which shrivel when picked
in a matter of hours, that unspeakable blue
given up to fade, the petals tearing
into the hiss and warp of the wind.

Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Publications: Heliotrope, Poet Lore, Willow Springs, Blackbird, etc.
Awards: Co-winner of the Frontera Prize; Ellipsis Prize; Editor's Choice winner in Poetry from Heliotrope Magazine
Other: M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Montana

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