/ / Issue 9, Poetry

If there’s one thing nobody wants,
             it’s a mare lame in both fronts.
You pinch the fetlock
             arteries for the digital pulse.
You pack the shod hooves
             with turpentine and sugar
to draw the soreness.
             You thumb the jugular for a dose
of horse tranquilizer.  You run
             water for mud to cool her.
You pull the shoes with pliers,
             because somebody made a mistake
nailing shoes, a big-
             shouldered man, mouthy,
full of Jesus and guitar
             songs and a daughter with a bad
heart and marching orders.
             Listen, he talks while he’s working,
looks like he got a little carried
             away.  Now here’s a lesson.
Here’s a basket of lessons,
             a burning cedar tree of lessons,
horsehide to hammer to a tree
             of lessons you memorize.

The bony column ends in the so-
             called coffin.  Hoof-shaped,
it balances a whole horse.
             Don’t let sand and clay
come close.  Any fool knows
             that half-inch spares the kingdom.
Jesus won’t tell his secret,
             coffin bones like a compass south.
Coffin bones a water witch down.
             Jesus boy coaxed her close to hell.
Jesus boy hammered the door
             of horn and carved initials.
I’m looking for a hole
             to bury a horse.  She’s watching
the empty pasture:
             cedars like scarecrows
where their crowns died branching.
             Iron posts, ghost fence.
Hawks slide the sky
             like knives slicing fat meat,
a rubbery parting of clouds.
             A pond spreads flat
as wax paper downwind,
             smudge of water shine.
Someone says, the pond’s low,
             we need rain.  Someone says,
that would be a pretty pasture
             if we mowed.  Those trees
break the blades.  I never learned
             how to fix the broken blades.

She doesn’t lie down but she
             can’t walk.  She’s watching
the empty pasture.
             She doesn’t want to miss
crow or frog or spun web
             or cross stuck with nails
for shoeing horses.  All day,
             hobbles to the water barrel.
Drinks like someone deserted,
             dying.  One day
a man drove the gravel
             on a mission.  He hammered
and talked about television
             and Jesus and the whole story,
and if I keep telling this
             everybody’s going to live
forever, including the ones
             who don’t deserve it, not
because they floated to heaven,
             black wings trimming the fat
of the sky to quick, only
             because you caught me
rubbing something hard
             between my palms, not
a bit for a bridle, not
             a stirrup to rest my boot,
not a shovel to dig
             the grave, keeping my promise,
but she’s just a horse
             so she can’t be thinking
where will she go
             before she falls, and she looks
like I do when what happens
             to a man with a mouth and tools
for killing and a hawk
             shearing the sky and a devil
slapping its tail
             on hell’s open door.