Sheila Black


Do I get tired of
the stories I know or the ways
I have of telling them?
Like today when the sun shines
with that sad piercing autumn clarity
and the silk trees fray along the roads,
pink and white threads
darkening to burnt sugar,
and on the river banks
swallows gather in great numbers,
filling the branches of the dry cottonwoods.
They will fly south to the sea,
trace the hip of the land
over plains and mountains
to Venezuela or beyond.

Driving down the old Highway 66
at noon, I hear them chatter
through a hedge of mesquite.
How they ache to leave and how this season
fills me with pestilent longing-fretful,
tiresome so I jerk the wheel too sharply,
raise dust devils in the road,
imagine crumpling metal,
some kind of annihilation,
meanwhile all this life in hands,
so easy to waste, so hard to taste each bite.

Rilke said the beauty which is next to terror
is the trace of God
in the world, but I can't find it,
and so I drive and watch
the swallows lift from the branches,
flutter over the water in little clouds
that rise and fall like waves,
a feeling rising in me
so shapeless and yet so sharp,
I can't keep my mind in one place,
but dart around, hunting,
pecking like a women who can't find the key
to her house but is sure it's right in front of her,
right under her nose, so close that
all she needs to do is put out her hand
and she will touch it,

the way when you find the right way to tell a story
the world clicks into place,
each separate object illuminated
sharp as the autumn sun,
and all the old truths are reborn
to dance in front of you:
the silk trees with their tremulous flowers,
the brave swallows,
the grains on the road,
objects waiting to be dangerous.

       * The phrase "Objects Waiting to Be Dangerous" comes from a poem by Reginald
       Shephard , "Objects Waiting to be Dangerous," published in the Spring 2002
       edition of American Poetry Review.

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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