by Sheila Black
In my dream state of New Mexico, the onion
fields sing and breathe. They know
how to discard a skin without regret.
But also, how to make beauty
of what is lost. In my dream state,
I hand you armfuls of onions that desiccate
in the clear clear desert air. They resemble
the wings of moths
or translucent birds. They fly through the hot
They land at our feet.
I never told you I loved you.
I find it amusing in a bitter-almond way,
the elaborate prohibitions I set
around these words that still carve
a hole in me, bone-smooth, bone-dry,
filled with wings of onions.
Our dream state was border-uncomfortable.
Sometimes I was your stalker.
Sometimes you almost needed me.
I misinterpreted every word you said.
Or spent fretful hours
transcribing, revising. This was the madness
that Sophocles found age redeemed him from.
What is the inscription for loving what doesn’t
love you back?
Lessons of distance. Lessons of time versus space.
Lessons of relative weight.
I am planting onions. Their flowers resemble
lilum, resemble daffodils,
resemble narcissus stripped back to
as Narcissus himself was stripped.
What would be more horrible than to find
you love only the self?
The bulb in the ground, the bloom which is
but nevertheless edible.
In my dream state of New Mexico, I cover
myself with onion flowers.
I know these will not last.
I know the truth is the hollow my body makes in this red earth.
On this bare red hill where I never
told you what I was most possessed
Now the November fields,
rust of the used world.
Do you remember how the tall grasses bleach as they die?
Nothing else resembles that bleach-shine, not gold
but the ghost of what gold is; the ghost skins,
which suggest a rising. We want most to love
what actually happened.
Sheila Black is the author of four poetry collections, most recently Iron, Ardent (Educe Press, 2017). She is a co-editor of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The Birmingham Review, The New York Times and other places. She currently divides her time between San Antonio, TX, and Washington, DC.
Art by Michelle Johnsen, art editor
Michelle Johnsen is a nature and portrait photographer in Lancaster, PA, as well as an amateur herbalist and naturalist. Her work has been featured by It’s Modern Art, Susquehanna Style magazine, Permaculture Activist magazine, EcoWatch.com, EarthFirst! Journal, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and used as album art for Grandma Shake!, Anna & Elizabeth, and Liz Fulmer Music. Michelle’s photos have also been stolen by AP, weather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.