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Stablehand’s Song

ISSUE:  Summer 2005

Today, in the fields, the season’s last cutting: square bales.
My German neighbor and his son
stand for a moment in the stillness
seeing the barn loft where they’re going
to stack the hay in layers so exact,
one across another, horizontal then vertical,
not even the wind will unfasten this work they’ve done.

Come January, evening feeding out, shafts of sun
seeping through slats in the high barn, they’ll reach
gloved hands and remember this October light,
shimmering of rust on the mountainside,
as they grasp bailing twine holding sweet clover.

In a week’s time there will be a rain so heavy as to fill
the creek, raising it over the banks of the rutted road.

But how do you fully imagine a subject for yourself?
Think about going underground: wouldn’t it be pitch black?
Think of birds’ bones, how they’re hollow, filled with air
so they can drift away, right up there in the sky.

My neighbor’s wife became so used to the swaying of the ship
she felt the rocking weeks after, even though
she’d sworn to never see the ocean again.

There were horses on the ferry to the mainland.
They couldn’t get their footing, wanted to lie down.
But their halters kept them up, tethered to the sides of the trailer.

I was there, my job to keep them calm, feed them
or twist the twitch around their muzzles so tight
I couldn’t look in their eyes where fear of the ferry’s
unpredictable shifts mounted perilous as floodwater.


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