It’s raining, but when the fog strays
onto the path, I slide off my mare and pause, listening.
In the pale darkness, I can no longer tell
which direction we’ve come from, nor the distance
between the rising headland of the mare and my own
hand—as if I am an unexpected stranger
separated from myself. Then, out
of the void, a voice with the impossible
sound of blood: I know you
wish to protest the motionless state
of your heart, but you were not made by God
any more than this horse, born only of
other horses, was made by God.
In the faint mist, dark shapes are frothing.
The mare shifts uneasily. I lean
into her; her warm bulk leans back. She quiets.
When I was a child, I liked to bargain
with God. I’d say, “God, if you let me win
this game, I will say twenty Hail Marys
and stop telling lies at school. I will never
fight with my brother
again.” And even today: “I will quit my love
of the body, of other bodies—I will give up
my joy in birdsong, of sweet-tasting things—”
You forget I am fashioned
in your image, I am dead and drowned.
My wings are your strange membranes.
“—I swear I will leave
this life’s eager flares of light, only tell me
the lump in my breast is nothing . . .”
A laugh. Try that with anyone
but me. In an instant,
the solid weight of the mare
dissolves. The damp air thickens
around me like a shell. My other self rears high
and distant, raises a hand like a blessing.
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