Poetry | September 01, 1997
Where Once It Stood
I was looking for a horse, but there was
no horse, only the feed barn and above it
the purple meat of sky: the smell
of birch smoke and burlap and grain.
Yes, yes, now I remember. It was fall,
the same fall my mother bought a gun, the fall
we studied architectural perspectives in Art.
In the barn a bridle shimmered cold on its hook.
Light chinking in from the cracks,
mouse prints etched in sawdust on the floor.
And then—or was it another day?—
a horse did appear, a palomino in the pasture,
alone near a rock. Flanks prickly with hoarfrost,
mane the color of car fumes and snow.
Clearly he must have been there from the start.
Yes, the horse must have been an emissary
long unseen. When I reached to touch him,
he bolted away, leaving the child—who was me—
framed by the half-wide door of the barn.
Wait! I wanted to say, hold on!
But the horse—who was also me—
already had jumped the fence,
softening into the dark strand of trees.
Near the tractor a red candy wrapper
floated shipwrecked in the ditch.
Somewhere an ancient door hinge swung.
Hours passed, or days and years, and I grew hungry.
As for the horse, even my sharpest
finger whistle could not call him back.
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