Sheila Black


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For years we marched toward it
as toward the bridge or the rainbow.
There is no simpler way to say it.
We studied the charts of bones as people
poring a treasure map. We let them measure
the arc, the angle, the curve, the twist,
and speak of how breaking or pinning
would straighten it. We pictured a scene as in
a Kodak commercial where a girl runs
through a sprinkler in August, her legs
lithe and pumping, deer-like in her denim
shorts. We left out the scars. We left out the idea
of flesh as a clay, which could at best
be made over crudely, which would inevitably
follow its own path. We experimented with the night
braces, the day braces, the endless clamping
in. Who would we be when the goal was reached?
We didn't know, andin-between we paid no attention
to the body I was. The joke in the family
that all the pictures left are from the waist up
only, though no one confessed the shame/
rage/awkwardness. The time in the family
fashion show when the organizer said it would be
better if I did not walk with my mother and sisters
, because "surely, it would only embarrass me."
And so I sat in the third row and smiled until
my jaws froze as they floated by in matching



Listen to the audio version.

They live underground for
months, or even years, and are given
wings but no mouths,

which feels like a metaphor,
but for what exactly?

I was given many things, but
wings were not among them,

and so often I wanted
precisely what I was not gifted
to take. Consider these moths—

lives so light they appear
and disappear with barely a trace:

Closet, stair, window frame, porch light,
the spare furniture of a single day.

Or have I taken the wrong lesson
all along—their damp wings unfurl
in time lapse motion, notion

that for a day you might wake and fly
into a world, and you
were born for this.



Listen to the audio version.

One is not born disabled, but rather becomes disabled.
          -Rosemarie Garland Thomson I did not know until they said "What happened
to you?" I did not know until they shoved me
in the playground, a boy walked after me, jerking
his body so raggedly from side to side. I did not
know until the teacher said, "Are you one of the ones
who can't understand what I'm saying?" I did not
know until hopscotch and Red Rover, and I was
always the name they said could not come over.
I did not know until they threw stones one afternoon
in the rain. Until the silence of the metal swings,
curling, to-and-fro, almost delicately on their metal
chains. Until the doctor said "here's a tough case,"
demonstrating on a moveable model with limbs
of wood and wire where my bones had gone wrong.
Until they fitted the brace and illustrated how to
tighten the bolts—these bones, my own, forced
to assume an unfamiliar shape. I did not know until
the nurse set me up alongside the straight wall
and said if I practiced really hard I could stop
my feet from turning in. I did, and I did, and she
shook her head "no." I did not know until the
counselor at school said I should consider a career
in the church because God does not care what
you look like outside, it is only the inside that counts.
How faithfully I tried to picture inside—like a cave
I might duck down and enter. Would there be sky,
any moon or stars? Would there be ferns or twilight
trees? What would it be to be only me? I did
not know.

Sheila Black &hellip:.