Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Ghost Season

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Ghost season, my daughter calls it. The time
the dead draw nearer. The wasps are hungry.
They flit along the clothesline among
the muggy towels, slick sheets, lick
sweat off faded clothespins,
crowd the curved bell of the pomegranate,
the heavy gourds of sweet fruit.
I forgot the pomegranates ripened so late,
those intricate chambers of seeds,
built on the same rhomboidal principle as snowflakes
and honeycombs
, Kepler notes in his journals,
How queer that in the myth these ruby seeds
are what would hold the earth in darkness --
their ripeness imprison the girl
in a world that never changed. The wasps grow drunk
around them. They swoop and dive,
ecstatic dancers. This is season when you have
to be careful or they will sting, drawn
by the smell of flesh,
more ravenous the closer they get to dying.
And the sky today is so blue it feels like something black,
a buzzing in my head, as if to be part of it
I would have to become nothing,
the way distance collapses oddly in this dry landscape,
thirty miles-an eternity-eternity no distance at all.
The wasps roam over the pomegranates,
sucking up the sweet juice. In the two-minute
burst of Star Date the radio astronomer
drones, In star time, we are this, less than this.
How do we appear in star time to the wasps?
Faceless? Luminous? Less than this,
almost nothing at all.
Yet how we fill it up.
I hang shirts and skirts, a rust-streaked washcloth,
striped tea towel. Count the onions I have chopped,
coats I have hung. The gold-burnished bodies
of the wasps crawl in and out of the folds of clean sheets.
The wind shears in folds across the smooth of the sky.
The first freeze will come any day now. The wind buffets the wasps
into the flame-colored goblets of fruit. The juice runs red
from the cracks. The seeds glowed like all the world down there;
the girl ate them and so sent winter into the world,

a kind of gift -- seasons wheeling, time
shrinking, stretching -- the way here in this yard
shirts and sheets dance in the wind, taking the shapes of the
ones I love, holding them before me as bright absences,
in my space and forever out of it.

Sheila Black is a mother of three who lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and works for the Colonias Development Council, which does community organizing in border colonia communities. She also teaches part-time in the English Department of New Mexico State University. Her poems have been published in many print and on-line journals, including Blackbird, DMQ Review, and Puerto Del Sol. Her first book, House of Bone, is forthcoming from CustomWords Press in early 2007. Among her awards are the Ellipsis Prize, judged by Stanley Plumly; a 2003 Editor’s Choice Award from Heliotrope Magazine; and the 2000 Frost-Pellicer Frontera Prize given annually to a U.S. and a Mexican poet living along the U.S.-Mexican border.

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