Poetry | September 01, 1997

That winter I hauled

frozen water buckets from the stalls

to my stove, then warmed myself

while listening to the aural sighs

of wind coming through

rag-jammed windows.

 

After each storm, I shoveled

a path from my door

to the barn, knowing that animals

grow heavier in hunger,

like the snow I lifted

and tossed.

 

What chilly work it was

to call out their names,

like wishes cast down a well,

until I could finally heave open

the grain bin. Then whinnies

resounded in the rafters, rich

as the notes of canyon wrens.

 

Spring did slowly rise

and rise again, schooling

the barn with its chartreuse dust

while buds turned brown as tobacco

or the coat of the mare

due to give birth.

 

On the night her foal surged forth,

her whinnies came quietly,

like curses said under the breath.

Down in the field, those animals

related by blood—mother,

sister, aunt—sawed their teeth

against the fence rails

while moving back and forth

as though in a shooting gallery.

 

I experienced that same sense

of hope held within hope when,

years later, my own child

dawned within his deep environs.

I was naked and while I dozed,

briefly, between contractions,

I felt dazed by the weight

of washed air, so much so

I wanted to leave myself behind

and step back into the barn

where the mares hung down

their heavy heads, their hooves

thunking against the stall boards

like stones hitting moss.

 

Inside, the pressure was deep—

like a boat in sea water—

but who was the vessel

and who would be carried

and over what roughness

would we go?

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