Poetry | September 01, 1997


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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