Sheila Black


(for George Ypsilanti)

The bruised Cadillac
in the heel of the roller coaster
has its windows shattered
into shapes of scars
and spider webs, a jagged heart
outlined in purple nail polish
cuts the hood.  Someone has
tagged your name
in the inky sprawl of a crab.

Your body like the body
shattered in this car
leaks across the sidewalks in front
of Bellevue.  Our nights in the Mars Bar
you swore the gin and tonics
would do you in, sweet
tonic water turning to sludge in your veins,
snuffing each bright cell,
ankles first.  Now images of the Virgin
Mother and Lady Liberty
darken over each foot,
Mary's face stained blue
as her robe, and Liberty's flag
featureless as this hulk
of metal that lurks beneath
the whizzing lights of cars,
the volleys of shrieks,

rising and falling along
the carapaced hills.
And I am standing in this rattle
looking over at the sign
on the Quonset hut of the Freak Show
where your name no longer appears
between Big Gulp Eddie
and the Fish Girl.
And you are the ghost of a gesture,
a man in a rented room,
forming fingers into fists,
stabbing again and again
to uncover a clear line.

Look, it is evening here.
Shadows lift from the oily waters,
roll over land
as raindrops slit from the side
off a cloud, a sudden dimness
pocketing the park.

You wrote me
of your body and the pictures
woven into your skin, colors
you once recognized by the sting
of the dye in the needle.
I look at myself, you said,
I look at myself, and I am a chalk garden
melting in the rain.

Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Publications: Heliotrope, Poet Lore, Willow Springs, 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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