High Desert
For my sister

I start at the nipple, press down hard, then work
outward, this time half expecting to find
something brittle as a cinder buried there.

I think of you in that chair by the window
courting sleep, willing it to come.
Outside, snow solid along the Zuni crest
but already gone from red rock and lava
that pattern the darkness of the valley floor.

That the mastectomy wasn't enough.
When you phoned, I wrote down everything
CAT scan, lymph nodes, high-dose chemo.

This job of holding on as our bodies change,
holding on in a headlong season with its small
reprieves. Harder work than we expected.

Is there black ice on I-forty? Does piñon smoke
push back down the chimney and sprawl
between the lit houses and desert stars?
Diane, can you sleep at all?


Poems by Sharon Fain:

Snowy Owl
Getting It Right
A Birth
Waiting for the Bear
Screen Saver
Losing the Drought
Isla Mujeres: Weeks Before the Breakdown
On Hearing Jack Gilbert Talk About Death
One Month at Casa Sotovento
Out on the Deck at Sirens
Waiting to Hear About the Biopsy
Elvis at Chiang Mai
High Desert
Letters From Sarajevo
On Seeing the Place Where I First Made Love

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets