HORSE: A TRIPTYCH
A lot of poetry has been written in front of horses, the man says. He is lying on his side in the grass. In front of him, two women lead two horses on leashes. The horses are white. The leashes are for dogs. The grass is dead. The horses are on the cusp of becoming trees.
I have never written in front of a horse.
Horses are good listeners, he says.
The horses are eating the grass. One horse is larger than the other. Both are white and standing adjacent to the street where I was attacked.
When you were attacked, you were walking home. You were not alone. You were with a friend. But you were by yourself. You were carrying a canvas bag labeled [redacted]. It contained one feminist primer and one roasted pepper. Then the street turned a corner and moved into an alternative version of itself. Engraved into cement was the phrase MARIE I MISS YOU, and a community garden (not for trespassers) occupied space. A runner approached from behind. Was she a horse? Her running sounded muscular.
Soon you were locked in a chokehold. As you recall this scenario, you look at one horse on its bright red leash. It is not a dog, nor a woman filming a documentary about the violent acquisition of leather.
Transcribing the horses is neither still nor loud. In the transcription’s background, there are many toddlers, many strollers. There is a rose garden that is not for itself, for for it to be for itself, it would have to contain roses. Punctuating the flowers’ absence are an abundance of yoga classes and spandex accessories.
It is an ellipsis, the horses surrounded by art school students transcribing them surrounded by toddlers on leashes backgrounding them surrounded by buildings casting shadows on them surrounded by colorful contemporary sculptures surrounded by trees surrounding the street where you were attacked while wearing cruelty-infected clothing surrounded by grasses poisoned by their cultural context surrounded by imaginary love enveloped in cocoons—i.e., post-traumatic stress disorder linked to the song [redacted] by [redacted]—surrounded by the memory of a plant driving a minivan surrounded by the inability to get things done surrounded by a scripture dressed in a yellow jumper accenting your acute neediness, AKA the desire for someone to speak to you in your first language, not because your happiness is contingent upon it, but because your neurochemistry is.
In a cage, a man gazes forward.
A man is sitting on slate. He is naked. He is holding a dagger.
Surrounding his body is a cage that is not a cage.
It is a sonic lattice, a form of sense-making.
Is the knife he is holding a prop for a role-playing game?
He looks like an ogre.
The horses move closer.
They are licking the grasses with their gigantic tongues.
You want them to approach you.
Hi puppies, you want to say.
This is what your dead friend would say.
He who was not a man in a cage.
Now someone is taking off her leather boots.
And a woman is telling another to move back.
In case the horse steps on her.
But men are stepping on us all the time!
In the middle of the grass, a man is performing a dance.
Horses are good listeners, he says.
You look younger than you are.
And you look like you’re dead.
A question arises: Do you want to know more about horses?
Everyone nods in agreement.
We all have class now anyway.
Do you feel uncomfortable, he asks. You can step back a couple feet.
From where do the horses come?
And when the horses come, do they make a sound?
So it is said: The horses cannot be quiet—cannot be still—for they bound.
CLAIRE DONATO is the author of Burial (Tarpaulin Sky), a not-novel novel, and The Second Body (Poor Claudia; Tarpaulin Sky, forthcoming), a full-length collection of poems. Recent writing has appeared or is forthcoming in BOMB, DIAGRAM, The Elephants, Fanzine, and on the website of the Poetry Society of America. Currently, she is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the BFA Writing and Architecture Writing Programs at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.