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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