Sheila Black

What is the Structure of Lips that Make Sounds?

Dear X,

I am in a big room where they chose the jurors.

Today the sun came after
rain. Some kind of small cool breeze.

I parked in the watery light.
I was thinking of you and I—

And I am a girl with a splinter in my palm.

Sometimes it glimmers a little or aches and

I don’t know how to judge

any one. There are these burdens, you carry them,

sometimes lightly, sometimes a loneliness like

a dark bird on your shoulders. The boy doesn’t look at anyone.

He becomes stranger to us all.

We in the room rustling papers, and you and I,

a kind of ballad, I’m thinking.

Because I sing a hard song I know with you I
acted like my dog when he scratched at the door.

We lived way out in the mountains then—that
summer the hills caught fire.

That summer never enough rain.

The line of coyotes sang for him, and he scratched at the door.

He wanted so badly to go even though they would rip
him, piece after piece.

Because I sing a hard song I knew what he felt—

some high tinny flash in that wilder music, chasing him.

Or the light striking the trees as the fire leapt over.

Like a love, a leaping. And because I sing a hard song
I knew you were too lonely from the letters you wrote me,

those sentences as if strips of meat flayed flat with

berries pounded in and hung in the trees. I knew

there was something behind them like the dark dense

woods, the burning hills with the coyotes leaping

the flames. The meat hung in the trees and the many

many black birds that would gather, the pieces brushing

against each other. As if I could make you less alone.

Though really it turned out to be the other way around.

And to judge, each moment, a breath, such a hard

and shining thing.

Author Portrait

Sheila Black is the author of two poetry collections House of Bone and Love/Iraq (both CW Press). She recently co-edited, with poets Jennifer Bartlett and Mike Northen, Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, September 2011), which was named a Notable Book for 2012 by the American Library Association. A third collection Wen Kroy is forthcoming from Dream Horse Press. She is a 2012 Witter Bynner Fellow in Poetry, selected by Philip Levine. She lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs Gemini Ink, a literary arts center.

View the website of Sheila Black