My Secret

Even if I did not dare invite anyone, I still wanted

a party—the fountain downtown to change


times, a saxophone to start noodling out of nowhere

as I crossed the street past mine or simply


a friend to sit me down at the table of pressed-tin under

the striped awnings where chestnut trees bloom,


a girl reciting from a book of dead poems:

holiness, danger, and the smell of lime.


The waiter bringing me coffee the way I like it—

scalding but not too strong, the tiny metal pitcher


of chilled milk. I would eat pie—hot with a small

dab of ice cream, the crust shattering as it should,


the fruit beneath sour enough to pucker my lips,

and I would remember what you stay alive for–


the days like merry-go-round horses— pretty,

painted, circling. I would know better than to wish


any fairground tricks, no jolting ascents or

swooping falls. Only a long dullish novel to read,


a train ride where I might stare out at fields—

hayricks and children playing in mud, a town


confettied for some minor regional festival which

would be my party, the one I throw myself, in


which I whisper to a stranger one true thing–—that

I know how far I have gone, that I am glad to be


returned, pulled from that blue edge—knife-flat

or turning wheel— what it is to be torn, paper-light.


And I would tell this person—this stranger,

yes, this world is glory, but always the


dust-bunnies under the bureau, the parts of yourself you

long to wrap up in old t-shirts and hide under


the bed, a book you are afraid to read, why I

need this small private celebration—still me, still


here—the mornings and middle–of-nights when

I am the cricket sawing its legs to sing.

Sheila Black’s books include House of Bone, Love/Iraq  and Continental Drift with painter Michele Marcoux. She co-edited Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability with Jennifer Bartlett and Mike Northen.  Recently, she received the 2012 Witter Bynner Fellowship in Poetry selected by Philip Levine. She lives in New Mexico.