How to Be a Maquiladora


poems by

Sheila Black

Poetry chapbook, 40 pages, $7 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-053-4

Released: 2007

This manuscript was selected for publication after finishing as a finalist in the 2006 MSR Chapbook Contest.

Sheila Black received her MFA in 1998 from the University of Montana. Her poems have appeared in numerous print and on-line journals, including Copper Nickel, LitPot Review, DMQ Review, Willow Springs, Poet Lore, Ellipsis, Blackbird, the Pedestal and Puerto Del Sol. In 2000 she was the U.S. co-winner of the Frost-Pellicer Frontera Prize, given to one U.S. and one Mexican poet living along the U.S. Mexico Border. Her first book, House of Bone is forthcoming from Custom Words Press in March 2007. She lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico with her husband and three children where she works as Development Director for the Colonias Development Council (CDC), an organization that does community organizing in border colonia communities.

Nobody’s Girl

It is not the story the Tigres of Tijuana sing
but it is hers-the bus from Sinaloa,
aqua peeling to white beside the dying
banana trees and an ocean wind
rushing through the night, the smell
like grass, something wholesome,
a child’s Sunday dress all lace and white and
yellow-eyed daisies. Behind her eyelids
girls bleed in shuttered rooms, a cockroach
spins on its back on a plate full of water.
He says, You are beautiful. He says,
I will take you there. She doesn’t ask. He
presses the cut fruit to her
lips. The slippery black seed of the
papaya, the mangos stringy as
the skin of aging women. Sweetness,
. Nothing lives on sugar
she tells him. Even flies ignore the white
powder heaped in the thin china bowl.
Mix it with water, though, and they all come,
the tiny red ants, the moths,
the butterflies opening and closing
like delicate shellfish. The Tigres of
call him a hero when he is dead,
black around the eyes and the lips,
but she is missing an eyetooth by then,
swollen veins bisect her thighs.
He is the man who punched her in the stomach,
and when she crossed her arms over it,
tore open her fingers. She remembers the
squares of concrete, the places he
never noticed. The cooler in the motel,
a door dripping water.


Why should I imagine this is a song I
know how to sing, except that I know what it
feels like to long for the rush
up the veins like air in your hair in a
speeding car, as the sides of the road
loom and careen and the way tobacco
smells soaked into walls and couches,
the oiled light of the lamps,
the chill of desert night pressing in.
How that fug of decay can be golden as
bourbon, a taste to slake the thirst
you didn’t know you had. And we like to
kill. Something in us likes it, the jolt
of iron on the tongue, the fist of the heart
stuttering, catching, and beneath that
the stillness of knowing that we should be
able to love things as they are except
we can’t. And so we drive the night
looking for the thick-syrup fix that will ease
the muttering of the cells, the mind
turning over, in on itself.
River we call it, the art of
forgetfulness, fine feather on the spume
of the breath
. Like a kid walking a curb
as if it were cliff or a cliff as if
it were curb. What we hunger is the fine
carelessness we only arrive at sideways, as if
we could dance between this world
and the world of objects which lies outside us,
the forever stillness-ebony, the hollow
of the vase, the shine of light on
sand, dream of long silence.

The Human Family

Today when my husband grabs my son by the ear,
I think of the rage of God before the flood,
and his gesture no longer seems personal
but something like the thunder heads which gather,
freighted, black, outside our bedroom window,
as if the record skipped so that we will later say
I cannot believe what I almost did. And this is our job,
to stop one another. To be the voice that calls back
the voice of God when he proclaims the lands
desolated, the waters rising, the end of the flesh.
And there is no escaping it, the way life keeps exceeding
the will. After all, it is a world we are weaving,
each one our small part. Which is why I weep
when my husband lets go and his shoulders fall
like collapsed hills and the rage that made him large
is now the pain that will make him small and
the boy dubs him King of the Bad People.
And we sit down at the table to eat the beans
which have cooked almost to burning in the pot,
what was broken, if not mended, forgotten.
And we sit like that and the light of storms passes
high over our heads, nicotine yellow, and behind it,
the same stars that witnessed the birth of the world,
and the waters, which rose and rose until they
covered everything.

SKU: 978-1-59948-053-4 Categories: , Tag: