Sheila Black


It is not praise, but lamentation.
The body falls; it falls

and fails, rot and breakage, a cracking
inside. Yet even in such a fragile house
the light rises, filling the

glassed-in rooms as the voice.
can sing again what the body can no.
longer perform. It is not praise I feel like

but bitter weeping, stones clenched in the fist,
a will to swallow everything in
flood or fire, as Noah's God willed it,

but the song—something tells me I need it—
rising the waters, lifting and bringing
along the translucent weight

the slippery fish, the elusive thread,
the mountain-top and the single
pale wing

cut again and again into this
bell of sky.

* * *



The bomb was meant for you. You had secret lives of which we knew nothing
If you could build a cloud, you could rule the world. The men in the car
littered the pavement with their cigarettes, waiting. One scratched a mosquito
bite on his neck.


The bomb was not a bomb, it was a stick of simple dynamite. The men,
breathing heavily, ran around the corner.

One said: Too bad about the car.


How do such bombs get built? I prefer to think of the before. Men in rented
apartments with concrete balconies. A woman under a veil crossing the road below
whose hand grips the hand of a child. A boy, six or seven, with cropped hair and
unreadable eyes.

The concrete. That feels real. The look of concrete in sun. A sensation a
painter might work years to capture. Laying down each layer in heavy
impasto, looking for the perfect mix of glitter and dead rock.


The bomb was made by someone who believed. They heard the
noise. They never looked to see what was left or if

the bomb was meant for you, which it wasn't. There was an under-minister or
a police chief, an American official of dubious provenance.

You walked down that street every day on your lunch break.

Why? Because of the almond trees. Because there was a swallow's nest
somewhere. Because of the girl in the coffee shop whose
hips reminded you of mine.


No. You had not thought of me in years. Or when you had it
was like a wing cutting the air, the movement created all-but-
imperceptible You thought of me and did not know what you were thinking.

I came to you as chime, a flavor of the wind.


You were in love. You walked down that street precisely because
it was fractionally less crowded than the others. A silent suburban corner:

Almond trees, parked cars, sidewalks stippled with the shadows of buildings
and gateways.

You rehearsed conversations in your head.

When you reached the curb perhaps you were saying. Yes, I, too, feel this
way sometimes. As if all was passing by me but through a curtain of water.

You could picture her face whoever she was. You could picture yourself
saying the words.

I think about the objects damn there, the oceans below us.
The relics of ships-—timepieces, bolts of silk decayed past lace, a brass
button with a picture of a lion stamped on it.

The lion of the desert. What is that, you ask? We ask the same
questions in this part of the world.


No. That is what you would have said to me.


You were thinking about work.
You were thinking that perhaps you should take more baths. Get a haircut
so they would not find you so odd.

But they need me, you said.No one needs anyone, you said.


You always expected it. That is the other possibility. When you woke
in the night, you could taste the death in your mouth.

It was not like the flavor of blood or dust. It was faintly sweet
like the tooth powder your grandmother used

when you a boy, disguised with mint, but redolent of decay.


The almond trees, the concrete, the car. These are the only elements
I can reconstruct with any confidence.

Your foot long, second toe attenuated. You lift off. I can assert this
with confidence. You lift off. You are sure you will come down again until
the ball of your foot lifts and—


*First published in Many Mountains Moving. Both poems appear in Black’s latest book Love/Iraq.


Sheila Black’s poems have appeared in Diode, Puerto del Sol, Blackbird, and Poet Lore among other journals. She is the author of two full-length collections Love/Iraq (2009, CW Press) House of Bone (2007, CW Press), and a chapbook How to be a Maquiladora (2007, Main Street Rag). She was born with x-linked hypophosphatemia also known as XLH.