Sheila Black


When I was younger I hated
watching joggers, those people in their
linty cotton sweats or
aerodynamic suits made
of 100% man-made fabrics.
The flocks of them
like exotic birds wheeling around
the park. I hated the ruddiness
that suffused their features,
giving them the dumb-dazed look of lovers
or how they'd throw their heads back
and groan like people after sex.  I hated
the way their arms flailed,
how when they stopped,
they stumbled a little
as if unless they caught themselves
they might keep on going forever.
I hated seeing them on the subway, wearing
their ugly moon-boot trainers
with their work clothes, those puffy socks
with bold stripes, the thick,
minty smell of their deodorant, the bottles
of oddly colored sports drinks-
piss yellow, cool blue, but mostly I hated
what I could not name-the way their grasp of motion
was so different from mine, their legs
covering ground, chewing up
the yards,  miles, and the dim understanding
I had that space would never crumble
before me that way.
         And  I like to think this is one thing I have
learned in my almost forty years: how to love the runners
for doing what I cannot, feel my way
into those bodies so different from mine,
feel the long muscles in their legs hardening,
         flanks quivering animal warm, the blood rushing and
working beneath the surface,
feel the crunch of asphalt, the spring of grass,
the air burning through my nostrils
so that sometimes watching them, I lift my
head and toss it back dazed, dumbstruck,
like any animal in love.

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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