Jan 17


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
pure form,

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
somewhat flavorless,

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
to say.


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 APweather.com, The Daily Mail, and Lancaster Newspapers. You can contact her at mjphoto717 [at] gmail.com.