Sheila Black

If this is a snapshot of time where is she?

In the rain falling slantwise,
toxic orange of streetlights, leather smell of

the backs of yellow cabs,
across the park with my breath against
a fretwork of the
trees,

in the mahogany bar of the
fabled hotel where our drinks cost
ten dollars and came with violet paper umbrellas,

in the alleyways, the high green dumpsters—
in the fruit-rot of summer where

we picked up bottles for quarters,
emptied ashtrays in the latest borrowed apartment,

in July in Coney Island, walking
into the waves,
because we had nothing else to do,
because I knew nothing,
because she repeated my ignorant gestures,

a little flicker—

bird-dark.

Where? How long?

About Snakes

I would lie if I said it was easy—
if I neglected to tell how I thrashed about
after, fingering my bite, which
stained me so inside—my soil
parched, the tomato plants felled by

curly top. Pecans shedding
their nuts too soon,
a hot wind, their blank brains, until I

haunted the alleys,
slashes of shade in garages,

dreamed nightly of a water that would
silver over me, make me more like them,
or better able to live in their company.

When the monsoons came,
I flung my arms out
to grasp every last drop, a thing
I had never done before.
Maybe it was balm after all to learn
that I was not
the center of anything.

How many rains had passed
in a blur? How many minds had I believed
like my own? There’s
a door in a wall at the end of a dirt road,
to a garden where every-

thing is only itself—
the candle of ocotillo,
and—who knows why?—
that diamond-
backed God coiled around the trunk.

Author Portrait

Sheila Black is the author of three poetry collections--House of Bone, Love/Iraq (both CW Press), and Wen Kroy (Dream Horse Press). She co-edited with Jennifer Bartlett and Michael Northen Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. She lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs Gemini Ink, a literary arts center.