Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.

— Virginia Woolf

Mercy

by Sheila Black

That her heart stopped is maybe only

a story, but all stories

are true to someone—what green shade

in that string of words: “My heart

stopped and they had to use the paddles,

and I came alive again?” That season

of running as if on a treadmill,

biting her lower lip until two drops of

blood, and the story I tell is of the

fruit with the insect skin, the danger

of all sweetness. She is fourteen then

and decides no more, and the only way

she can bring herself back is with

this story, which may be true—that she

lay on a bed of blank hospital sheets,

and her heart leapt like foaming horses

of waves, bounding as if to break

the rocks of the shore—what will to dis-

assemble, to disintegrate. She says “I did

not want to live, but a miracle threw

me here, and I woke up with a lamp

shining in my face.” I can find no trace

in the hospital records—only numbers,

fractions, portions of meals consumed.

I don’t know what happened inside

her. I know they put a tube down her

throat and fed her a protein the color of

library glue, and they did this for many

months, and at first she was not allowed

to walk, and at first they took away her

shoes. Who am I to say her heart did

not leap so hard she felt herself fall dumb

like a pigeon against a glass window

tricked into thinking the reflection

was all sky? Who am I to say it did

not happen exactly as she describes it?

She saw a field of snow and three drops

of blood on it, and the blood was so

red, the sky shook, and she awoke there

on the table, the hallway before her

like a ribbon with doors on all sides.

 

 

SHEILA BLACK is the author of House of Bone, Love/Iraq (both CW Press), and Wen Kroy winner of the 2011 Orphic Prize in Poetry from Dream Horse Press . She is a co-editor with Jennifer Bartlett and Michael Northen, of Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, (Cinco Puntos Press), named a 2012 Notable Book for Adults by the American Library Association. In 2012, she was a Witter Bynner Fellow, selected by Philip Levine. She lives in San Antonio, Texas where she directs Gemini Ink, a literary arts center.

 

The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water.

—Cervantes, Don Quixote

© 2016 The Indianola Review