Sheila e. Black Collaborations

Sheila e. Black & Courtney Spohn


The fallow fields turned yellow commandeered by hard consonants and soft i’s
All sound strained against the constricting rules.
We say why do we need boundaries.
The eyes have it though; they have been practicing all day to hum a little bit like the e’s.
The ease with which these changes are made echo the little clicks or taps of fretfully
               awaiting keys.
Click, click tap, tap—i’s and e’s know their superior functions well
in the middle of the Consonantal Armed Forces, a military not far from any page.
Today, it wants to say something about Myanmar’s green fields where God’s Army resides.
Much like Vietnam, it’s a crazy slide down a mountain of perpetual red burn on the guilty hands
of those involved. Exiles return home to find the words they once owned and loved spoken
in different dialects by people they don’t know. A crimson silence follows.

Banished by hoary kings they never elected, they slice away through mountain snow.
As if the only way to imagine this experience is to watch it on a big screen,
removed, absorbed in a hill of corn, trying to be someone worth the salt.
Their feet call out in blistered “o”s, the only noise made as homelands recede, recess.
Oh for a new home. One where they work as orderlies with the credentials of surgeons.
To lay laundry on the apartment stoop and stock a refrigerator with fish eyes and entrails.
Activities to hide among those who only know meals by numbers and
no stories about how humans were once pieces of light created from gods’ rivalry.
The staff he created was molded from a thick log, plodding, plodding, plodding, again over the
same ground of mossy rock and pinecone.
He says a wooden soul is born again after blood, merely due to repetition.

Human pieces of light splintered there and u were born. Until a refugee with his
haunted memories intervened, you would be left shattered on the ground and u would sell
wooden soles until your death.
You and I felt the tremors of this groundless past without fear, even though it scarred our nation,
andeven though the Consonantal Army seemed useless to ease our pain with their hard r’s, their
soft Ssssssses, their useless W’s—two words for one letter— it wasn’t enough.
O for a new home, indeed.

And this is how it go-o-o-o-oes. How birds work and armies travel by their bladders.
Where fault lines and shale rattle and propel the disconnected, the disconsonated.
We say why do we need boundaries. And the generals tell us to let it go, let it gooo,
let it goooooooooo.

Sheila e. Black & Caleb Puckett

The Best Western Interior Seaway
“There are man-eating sharks in the ocean, but we still swim”(television ad).

The strident will winds down to a groan as the pressure grows along the Best Western Interior Seaway. And despite the omens, men still seek out the ocean. And despite the attacks, men still swim with sharks. Living and dying from hand to mouth, see how the weapons abound. Still, so many live to tell of this sharp trajectory. Blood courses according to the rules of gravity. Four-hundred and seventy species of shark, but only four of those kill people. Wisdom of the crowd, says the elected representative. There are sharks that dismantle garbage cans with their teeth and suck large amounts of underwater prey into their mouths, but they leave off with people. The food chain is full of twisted or missing links. There are weapons of mass destruction, but we never find them. And Nemo is at least one league under the Homeric trail, isn’t he? So what is this casuistry? Fossils of shark teeth poke through the Midwestern soil, gnawing at Monsanto’s endless ears of corn tortillas.

We grow desperate, then deaf, slipping so far down the food pyramid. There are tumbrels filled with weapons, but we still have hope. The muted roar is positively anthemic, even so many leagues down. There is forgetting and there is remembering. It’s a selective process. Natural selection, the representative says, gives us the prerogative of predations. Smile all the while or through the wile, whatever you do. Be charming right down to the last chum. There are oceans full of remarkable mysteries, but we still fear them. Strange is this ancient trepidation. There are men who go down in ships and we still sing their praises, teeth all white with grit and polished pride. It’s as inevitable as our collective water burial, sans the scene where a distraught Kate leaves a blue Leo to Davy Jones—the locker-keeper, not the Monkee—you know?

There are men whose lives can no longer be counted. Numbering the species, numbering decline. About face, the about dissipates. Bait your breath and utter this motto: We are made of so much water. Earth should be our corollary. So what is this casuistry? Washing our hands with antimicrobial soap? Expecting everything and the kitchen sink to be at our command? Accepting a thimble-full of Darwin’s insipid soup in a Kansas diner redolent with deep-fried fish? Expecting Washington to sail through the swinging kitchen doors with a fist full of tea bags and a bucket of ice drawn from the Delaware River? Strange is this scene from an amended 1776 wrinkled sheepskin, strange our trepidation, strange our competition for freedom as we await treatment for lockjaw in an emergency room of rented poesies, listening for salvation in television ads and newsrooms. As we approach the doctor, inching one foot in front of the other, a massive swath of oil-stained sand sucks at our soles.

We look westward, noticing a knot of addled casuists in lifeboats studying a wildly scrolling menu. They yell, “Avoid the sacrificial flounder filet—choose the invisible turtle soup!” The gleaming horizon quavers with each step away from them. When we finally hit the bottom of the sea, we discover a celebrity chef serving comfort food to a host of patrons suffering from meningitis. A mermaid disguised as a waitress spits out a strident “order up” while cutting her way through the sad, watery ghost of a once-roguish Douglas Fairbanks. A few weak laughs issue forth before all and sundry are shunted off to a tastefully decorated shipwreck so that they might writhe in the jaws of their predators. Credit is cheap at this bar and grill, leading everyone to eventually become captive to its peculiar intoxicants and cuisine. Some say there are men fighting for these delicacies every day. Some say ten multiplied by one billion in a tumbrel is equal to all the barrels of oil we’ll need for the final frying. Some say that amount isn’t even enough to measure the pleasure one derives from a single minute in this paradise of parallaxes. Does Homer’s journey finally end here? Was he saved with a “hallelujah” before he hit the poop deck? I’d like to think so. Isn’t that the way everything should end? Hallelujah, my friend. Men are nothing without their teeth in words and words in the salt of a blinding sea wind. And women—stand by the concrete piers in a black and white film, sobbing and throwing floral wreaths into the rolling shores, while high-pitched sirens huuuuummmmmmmmum in harmony with a freshening coastal blow. Their wills paralyzed by the sound, forces them to jump in enticed by the beckoning, a reckoning they may regret. As water worlds go, this one fills the bill, with or without shark sandwich entrails or human lettuce on the menu. The food chain will satisfy itself one way or another.

Sheila e. Black's prose poetry has been published in several online journals that include Futures Trading, BigCityLit, Truck, Otoliths, Sawbuck E-Zine Journal, as well as The Living Arts Center Journal of Art and Writing and Haggard and Halloo Publications out of Austin, TX. Sheila is a Professor of English Literature at Tulsa Community College. She performs her prose poems in the annual Spoken Word Avant Garde Show at the Tulsa Living Arts Center and in other programs focusing on youth performing in the Spoken Word style, called “Identify Yourself.” Presently, she is developing a poetry and visual arts program for the summer of 2014 titled, “Enlightened Aging, ” a show that will center around the more unique ways the elderly engage in and with their aging process in the 21st century.

Courtney Spohn has read her poetry at shows in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she works in the legal field, blogs occasionally, and writes memoir.

Caleb Puckett lives in Kansas. Some of his recent work has appeared in Mad Hatters’ Review and New Mystics. Puckett has published several chapbooks and two book-length collections, Tales from the Hinterland (Otoliths, 2008) and Market Street Exit (Otoliths, 2010). His newest work, Fate Lines/ Desire Lines is forthcoming from Mammoth Publications. In addition to writing, Puckett edits the lit journal Futures Trading.
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