Right under their noses, the green Of the field is paling away Because of something fallen from the sky. They see this, and put down Their long heads deeper in grass That only just escapes reflecting them As the dream of a millpond would. The color green flees over the grass Like an insect, following the red sun over The next hill. The grass is white. There is no cloud so dark and white at once; There is no pool at dawn that deepens Their faces and thirsts as this does. Now they are feeding on solid Cloud, and, one by one, With nails as silent as stars among the wood Hewed down years ago and now rotten, The stalls are put up around them. Now if they lean, they come On wood on any side. Not touching it, they sleep. No beast ever lived who understood What happened among the sun's fields, Or cared why the color of grass Fled over the hill while he stumbled, Led by the halter to sleep On his four taxed, worthy legs. Each thinks he awakens where The sun is black on the rooftop, That the green is dancing in the next pasture, And that the way to sleep In a cloud, or in a risen lake, Is to walk as though he were still in the drained field standing, head down, To pretend to sleep when led, And thus to go under the ancient white Of the meadow, as green goes And whiteness comes up through his face Holding stars and rotten rafters, Quiet, fragrant, and relieved.
Its face, as long as an arm, looks down & down. Then the iron gate sound of the cage swings shut above the bed, a bell as big as the room: quarter- moon of the head, its nose, its whole lean body pressed against its cell . . . I watched my father hit a horse in the face once. It had come down to feed across the fence. My father, this stranger, wanted to ride. Perhaps he only wanted to talk. Anyway, he hit the ground and something broke. As a child I never understood how an animal could sleep standing. In my dream the horse rocks in a cage too small, so the cage swings. I still wake up dreaming, in front of a long face. That day I hugged the ground hard. Who knows if my heartbroken father was meant to last longer than his last good drunk. They say it's like being kicked by a horse. You go down, your knees hug up. You go suddenly wide awake, and the gate shuts.
I am given a pony for my birthday, but it is the wrong kind of pony. It is the kind of pony that won't listen. It is testy. When I ask it to go left, it goes right. When I ask it to run, it sleeps on its side in the tall grass. So when I ask it to jump us over the river into the field I have never before been, I have every reason to believe it will fail, that we will be swept down the river to our deaths. It is a fate for which I am prepared. The blame of our death will rest with the testy pony, and with that, I will be remembered with reverence, and the pony will be remembered with great anger. But with me on its back, the testy pony rears and approaches the river with unfettered bravery. Its leap is glorious. It clears the river with ease, not even getting its pony hooves wet. And then there we are on the other side of the river, the sun going down, the pony circling, looking for something to eat in the dirt. Real trust is to do so in the face of clear doubt, and to trust is to love. This is my failure, and for that I cannot be forgiven.
The youth walks up to the white horse, to put its halter on and the horse looks at him in silence. They are so silent, they are in another world.
The horse discovered a gateway to another dimension, and with nothing else to do, moseyed into it just for grins, and man, you don’t even want to know what happened next—it was just, like, Horse at the French Revolution. Horse in Franco’s living room. Horse on the moon. Horse in a supporting role in an episode of ER. Horse being shot out of a cannon. Horse on The Price Is Right. Horse in a Whitesnake video. Horse at Kennedy’s assassination. Horse in the Tet Offensive. Horse at the Gap gawking at some khaki pants. Horse in Julie Piepmeyer’s bathroom. Horse being tossed out of an airplane with a parachute strapped to its back, plummeting toward Nebraska. Horse on Capitol Hill (Yes, I’d like the floor to recognize the distinguished horse from Arizona). Horse on the subway. Horse authorizing a peace treaty between the U.S. and Iraq. Horse in the Evansville State Hospital. Horse caught up in a White Hen robbery. Horse in the Kentucky Derby. Horse staring at the merry-go-round at King’s Island in Cincinnati, Ohio. The list goes on and on. And so goes the horse’s adventure, where one minute it’s standing next to Pat Sajak and with a violent flash like that of a murderous camera or the twirling screen and music of a Batman episode it’s standing in the middle of US-23 with a screaming motorist speeding toward it. And this horse, whirling through dimension after dimension, spiraling carmines, suicidal jasmines, and mathematical theorems tornadoing past it, being placed in situation after situation—what had it learned when all was said and done and it was back at Tom Wallace’s farm? Nothing is better than Rachel Wallace while they stand in the barn in the middle of February and she draws pictures of it to take to school tomorrow.
At the fence line, I was about to call him in when, at two-thirds profile, head down and away from me, he fell first to his left front knee and then the right, and he was down, dead before he hit the... My father saw him drop, too, and a neighbor, who walked over. He was a good horse, old, foundered, eating grass during the day and his oats and hay at night. He didn't mind or try to boss the cows with which he shared these acres. My father said: "Happens." Our neighbor walked back to his place and was soon grinding towards us with his new backhoe, of which he was proud but so far only used to dig two sump holes. It was the knacker we'd usually call to haul away a cow. A horse, a good horse, you buried where he, or she, fell. Our neighbor cut a trench beside the horse and we pushed him in. I'd already said goodbye before I closed his eyes. Our neighbor returned the dirt. In it, there were stones, stones never, never seen before by a human's, nor even a worm's, eye. Malcolm, our neighbor's name, returned the dirt from where it came and, with the back of a shovel, we tamped it down as best we could. One dumb cow stood by. It was a Friday, I remember, for supper we ate hot dogs, with beans on buttered white bread, every Friday, hot dogs and beans.
He had driven half the night From far down San Joaquin Through Mariposa, up the Dangerous Mountain roads, And pulled in at eight a.m. With his big truckload of hay behind the barn. With winch and ropes and hooks We stacked the bales up clean To splintery redwood rafters High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa Whirling through shingle-cracks of light, Itch of haydust in the sweaty shirt and shoes. At lunchtime under Black oak Out in the hot corral, ---The old mare nosing lunchpails, Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds--- "I'm sixty-eight" he said, "I first bucked hay when I was seventeen. I thought, that day I started, I sure would hate to do this all my life. And dammit, that's just what I've gone and done."
Without external reference, The world presents itself In perfect clarity. Wherewithal, arrested moments, The throes of demystification, Morality as nothing more Than humility and honesty, a salty measure. Then it was a cold snap, Weather turned lethal so it was easier To feel affinity With lodgepole stands, rifted aspens, And grim, tenacious sage. History accelerates till it misses the turns. Wars are shorter now Just to fit into it. One day you know you are no longer young Because you've stopped loving your own desperation. You change life to loneliness in your mind And, you know, you need to change it back. Statistics show that One in every five Women Is essential to my survival. My daughter asks how wide is lightning. That depends, but I don't know on what. Probably the dimension of inner hugeness, As in a speck of dirt. It was an honor to suffer humiliation and refusal. Shame was an honor. It was an honor to freeze your ass horseback In the year's first blizzard, Looking for strays that never materialized. It was an honor to break apart against this, An honor to fail at well-being As the high peaks accepted the first snow - A sigh of relief. Time stands still And we things go whizzing past it, Queasy and lonely, Wearing dogtags with scripture on them.