Aracelis Girmay

To the (Heart) Horse

Oh, hooves who never killed me even once,
though there were chances,
I remember you on this road through Pennsylvania —
fog riding the hills like steam off a horse’s neck,
your neck, I flew hard over
into the (dusty) sequined air
like a rag doll ballet of tendons, acrobat
shuffled up by your neck’s jubilee. I am sure
my heart was kicking, but there was not
one afternoon I did not climb back up & shove both feet
into the dark Us of your saddle,
to the hum, I remember now,
to the hum of square boxes stacked
in the beekeeper’s field, my teeth
wore grids of red silt
kicked up by your lilac stomp. Work. Maybe
I did not love you well (enough)
or maybe you were just tired
or both, but noon after afternoon
for at least 200 days, you tried to tell me something.
God knows. Should have just set you loose.
You were not mine or mine to give away.
But still, I should have known
that before September they’d turn you dead
for going crazy. You see,
even the dog is running in its sleep, & the mind
cannot be blamed for its 5 places at once,
or the songs that it hears when it is walking.
& whose fault is it that the brain is a grenade
or a table off of which plates fall,
& what animal was I to tell you not to dance,
to not have heard the tambourines, their banshees,
to have kept you from jackknifing into heaven
by the vexed haul-over of your own wild feet


“To the (Heart) Horse” is from Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007).