Shiela BlackWe are pleased to welcome Sheila Black, who will be reading at our September 5 Library Reading Series event. She has agreed to share some of her work with us in advance of the event.

Big Empty
She wants to know if the other universes have a
consciousness, “like maybe we are like cells in a
giant, giant body. The body has no idea
what we are thinking.” She wants a pomegranate-
blueberry-lemon slushie from Sonic. “It is
healthier because it has fruit,” she says. She says,
“My thighs are sooo huge.” At Fort Stockton, she chants
“Windmill, windmill, oil well, oil well,” drawing
hearts on the sleeve of her notebook, then with her
finger on the dust that has crept across the car
windows.  Roadtrip—destination “Land of Enchantment.”
“It doesn’t look any different than where we
came from,” she says. “Where are we going? Cells
just travel round and round, you know this?”
She turns up the music on her iPhone. The band
is called “Five Seconds of Summer.” If she had
a wish, she announces, she would be surfing with
them instead of road-tripping with us. “What is
healthier,” she wonders aloud. “Cheese fries or
tater tots?” “Tater tots,” we all say at the same time.
In ten minutes, we will exit the highway, drive thirty
miles to a bald flat-topped mountain. We will get in
a short line and view the telescope which scientists
claim can peer so far into space it is the same as looking
at the beginning of time. What will we see? The dust
on the lens, a muzzy cluster of star? She will tell us
outer space smells like barbeque because the stars
keep burning up, because the stars keep burning.
She will squint up through the glass. Run her finger
across the star map. Outline her lips in Burt Bee’s
Berry Bliss. “Whose cell am I?” she will ask. “Universe,
Universe, it is I, Eliza, calling.”

Praise

(for Walker)

For the hand

that did not shake

when they  cut into

him as into a side of pork

for the mask

the nurse smeared

with   blueberry-flavored chap-stick

so he would not

smell the latex    for the latex gloves

for the sixteen screws

they screwed

into his fibula   his tibia  the width of his femur

for his femur

like an adze or

the keel of a boat

the anesthetic  injected around  the bore hole   and in each bone

the stitches

which melted

the white  gauze pads   they taped over

for the sterile theatre

for the extra

lights like mercury

for the mirrors  which bounced the light around the room

for when  he asked  the anesthesiologist  for a drug  that would

not  put him

so far under

he would become

to himself   unknown

for her reply   that this  could  not be  done.

 

Mother

I wanted to say your birth was when fear entered,

but it was not so quick. I was like the bear

pierced by an arrow deep in its flanks

 

who walks never guessing the source of her

new slowness or of the bright splotches which

gather in the snow.  Fallen stars?  Flowers?

 

When she reaches her den, the cave seems deeper

than remembered (as does the cold that comes with

night). At no point does the bear recognize the wound

 

is mortal. That is the gift. The pain comes on like

the music of the wind,  the currents of

the air. I moved through the world like any

 

ordinary person.  That was what I wanted to tell you.

See me tearing open the bags of green peas,

the boxes of macaroni? I heated your milk,

 

washed out the juice cups, sliced the bread, turned

back the sheets, as though these small tasks

were everything, which they were.