The Black and the White Helena Hopkins Poetry

local_library The Black and the White

by Helena Hopkins

Published in Issue No. 248 ~ January, 2018

My courage lies dead on the branch

of a cactus in the desert;

a creature I watch

die over and over,

again and again—crawling across

the needle and shriveling

in full sun.


I can’t help this

struck hard by indiscriminate

passions, falling like

heavy solar flares, yet I don’t burn

hot enough to force a tick from my skin,

rather wear the disease like

a new hair color.


They say Lyme disease is bad

this summer. You say my hair

looks like flames, fading

from red to what I was born with—

a color neither dark nor light,

something like the needles of a cactus:

straight, cut short, you call this


perspective, the looking glass—

not a single hole in the wall

through which to see—the black and the

white. Is it night or day? Spring or fall

in the desert, inside a jar painted black?

I wake in the evenings, sleep at the break of dawn.

It is lost on me:


the difference between

a jar and a door when they are

both closed. There is a funeral

procession in desert sand, the creature

put to rest in a jar. I’m looking for a hole

in all this hesitation: To climb or not to climb?

To swim or not to swim?


The tree is tall

and dead if you look closely,

you see the trenches of the ash borer,

under bark, the tick walks away engorged

with blood: the differences between

swimming and drowning, ash and iron

are miniscule:


a mountain in a lake, a mountain

made of lace—the mountains I climb

are knots in sewing thread:

the thread made of fallen trees.

I’m shakable, unshakeable and as

I drown in the mountain, a door bursts open:

It is the jar. I cry with the skeleton


inside it, still ignorant.

Lines cross in infinite directions:

where to begin? Where to end?

Thread cascades down a mountain

I am entangled. I start skeletal

in a desert trench;

I end the same.


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Helena is a sheep farmer and freelance writer from Westfield, Indiana. Her poetry has recently been published in AMP.