Dangerous Territory

In the distance the hills have a velvety surface,

scalloped or undulating,

we’re making a map on a handkerchief, the space shaped like a funnel tapering so gradually we don’t even notice

we’re being closed in,

herded inside,

we don’t even notice they’re waiting for us,

waiting to punish us,

as if it’s our own capacity is shrinking,

as if it’s a reflection of our own incapacity.

There’s some fog along the edge,

migrating to the edge,

it’s dangerous to stay put,

activity is just as dangerous,

it’s too late to get away before you even know what to escape from.

There are so many we count by twos and threes,

they’re not interested in talking, not the kind of people you come to terms with,

they don’t even know how to make exceptions,

it’s a form of even-handedness we often admire in other people.

On the map there are red lines all over,

we can’t help crossing them,

not deliberately,

I’m not saying it’s appropriate,

the saddles warp our thighs,

we depend on the horses to carry us forward, rising up on their toes like ballerinas in wind-up or freeze-frame motion,

lifting their shoulders into the wind,

they’re used to being timed,

piloting and also propelling us,

even though we don’t have time to take care of their hooves, to brush the bushy manes and smooth the short hair on their bodies,

which is the way horses ought to be treated.

Normally we’re calm,

we’re trying to stay calm,

of course there are risks you take because you don’t know how risky they are, and others because you need to,

others because it’s too dangerous not to,

others you don’t even notice like a style you adopt unconsciously.

It’s dangerous to keep going,

just as dangerous to turn back,

we’re not going to go out the way we came in, as in one of those stories that’s the same back to front.

There’s no place to disappear

or remain unseen in,

when we’re afraid we close our eyes and count by twos and threes

until we can’t go any higher.

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