Riding red horses,
War bridles, Mexican rowels,
Hills rolling in sage like blessings,
Thunderheads to the south.
Muzzle quilled like Saint Sebastian.
Jackrabbits soar through
Decades of sleep. Rimrocks
Foreboding to the north. Stars
Stars, stars. Come into my dream
You lost people I loved. Saddled
With a darkness that traps you
Beneath inscribed stones.
In the unwoken world
Elders believed you would
Ooze up gauzy as memory,
Speak the glossolalia of scripture
Speak to me, stunned in a white bed
Of perdition and misadventure.
A catalpa on wet asphalt,
White eroding petal. In the silver lid
Of a compact she dabs at shine. Reaches for a bowl
Of peaches, her mouth a river, her eyes
A maze of highways.
The rain is a nurse with a vocation. Torn charts
Of disease drip from the cut wrists of maples.
She closes her wings over a nest.
Love is invisible as the skin of a healthy bird.
If she is the gift of water
Then he is the gift of smoke.
Releasing each other from words
To climb the ropes that become clouds
Then fall to earth
To knife a heart into living wood
Trapping their names.
We froze in cancelled motion,
A backyard of grotesques.
The summer twilight stoked itself
With amputations until the streetlights winked
And lingeringly we parted,
Screen doors slamming.
We’ve learned to hold the stance
The years impose as if we were born askew,
Ears straining to hear
A summons from the dusk-filled house.
Whatever calcifies began those July evenings
To lay the first deposits
Of sediment in our hearts.
JOAN COLBY‘s most recent collection is Dead Horses, published by Future Cycle Press. (See our review from the last issue here.) She has been the editor of Illinois Racing News (a monthly publication for the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation) for over 25 years. In addition to seven previous poetry collections, her work has appeared in Poetry, Portland Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Western Humanities Review, among others.