The pony fell on my porch. Frayed twine tied around a bristle-furred neck. Calculus on its old teeth. The seam down the pony’s back was ripped. That’s where the spine was falling out. The pony looked bad. Careful, I got on its back and it went.
Stopped at a fence framing a farm beside the county route. Rode all the way back. Made me nervous. Made morning. On the farm, frail ponies ate sour apple cores. When they slipped their shoes, the ponies fell down on the hill, along the fence.
Along the side of the hill, I saw the shoes of ghost ponies strung with tumbleweeds over the fence. The fence was built from stacked armadillo shells, glued by rattlesnake venom. I pulled one off. Played the armored shell like it was a harmonica.
The pony was drinking. I was wading in a stream of night sweats. In the late afternoon, I stood in a field with pins between my teeth, like a seamstress pinning a hem, who says, “Now, stay very still.”
I had four horseshoes in my hands. I was searching for thread to mend the pony. I found some in the haystack. “Bite my coat collar,” I said, “it’ll sting less.” I stitched the pony’s back shut. Brought the animal home.
How to Build a Model Rocket with a Pony
Let the pony carry the kit in his teeth. You can carry the picnic basket, which should be filled with sandwiches and plastic picnic accoutrements. Soft licorice for the pony to gnaw. Spread the red-and-white tablecloth on the grass.
Assemble the rocket on the checkerboard. Let the pony watch. Carefully read the instructions, the pledge not to send a grasshopper to not-quite-space. The pledge will disappoint the pony. Explain. No animal can breathe in air like that. No animal has thick enough fur to keep out the cold.
Grass, flecks of dirt in the glue. Have lunch while the glue dries. Eat as the fins set steady in the cardboard. When the rocket is ready, put the engine where it goes. Clamp alligator clips to the engine wires. Walk the pony back.
Never enough feet between your heart and a horse. Never enough space between earth and other planets. You want to get to Venus and you can’t. The pony wants potato chips and the basket is in the line of launch fire. Place the pony’s hoof on the launch button, which is yellow, not red.
Stand back and wait for the world to turn into a lost city. Admire the sunset from the great distance you will feel from yourself. When the rocket ship refuses to return from the sky, fold the picnic blanket. Repack the basket. Carry your materials home.
How to Wrestle the Pony
Get a good name. Identity is crucial when we are masked, when we are spandexed. Find a cape for yourself and a cape for the pony: the blue pillowcase, your mother’s wedding veil. Call each other something good. Call yourself a terrifying thing. Avoid furniture, sharp corners, excessively shiny or soft surfaces.
Do you see the Nelson as half or full? It’s moxie. It’s heart. Fortitude, too. Be brave. Be careful. The body is an excuse for the hospital. The holding tank for faces in windows, eyes flanked by waking up, letting go.
Wear your threat well. Tie your flannel shirt up to keep the tails from interfering. Pull your tights over your knees. Stare across the ring—unzipped and opened sleeping bags. The cedar chest is a spectator. The dresser is referee; brass handles like eight whistles that rattle each time a wrestler takes a step. Count backwards from three. Approach center ring. Call each other tough and bad.
The pony tries a maneuver that cartwheels you in a perilous direction. Your head makes a sound when it hits the dresser. A hoof. A heartbeat. A footstep certain where it’s headed. Embarrassed, the pony finds a way to fold itself behind the cedar chest. Your cheeks find a way to raise their warmth to that of the stuff in your hair. This is one way to learn to respect the proximity of your body to something other than solid objects.
From the car’s backseat, on my back with a towel beneath my head, I see fall burning the hills. My green flannel shirt is tied at my navel. My pants are cuffed halfway up my calves from playing wrestlers. My name was “Ship of the Line.” The pony was “Monoplane.”
“This is what we get for horsing around.”
The pony turns the steering wheel between two nervous hooves. It must be hard to drive with hooves instead of hands. It must be something.
Outside, treetops like smithereens, treetops like fire opals. One combustible shimmer across the topography.
I stretch my palms toward the car ceiling. Outside the unrolled window, leaves hot like the blood in my hair, dampening the towel. Stretched across the backseat, I only see the top half of the world happening outside.
I get summoned to the station to observe a lineup and a photo of a very wanted man. I assure the officer, “I’ve never seen his face.” My pony has swagger: a distinct set of dimples, eyes like black quarters, ears like torn, small tents.
When my pony steals, my pony smiles. So when the officer shoves a set of gaunt eyes at me—humorless and hollow cheeks I could drum like a cantaloupe for ripeness—I say I haven’t seen this man.
That man is not my pony. Those cheeks are not my lips. I say, “I’ll keep my eyes out . . . ” and fail to finish the sentence, then the thought.
I go home and sleep too long. When I wake up everything is gone from the room. A cantaloupe exchanged for all the furniture and nick-knacks. Seeded, sliced. Rind dug in the rug. My pony is like that.
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