for Joseph Fasano

We had to shoot the horse—there was no other choice
but we did it humanely, we told ourselves
despite its pain: one high calibre slug
through the brain case. An act
brutal & commonplace & necessary,
though I continue to hear the echo of the shot,
a slight, perpetual hum in the right ear, &
can't forget the splatter of bone fragment, blood, &
grey matter, so many hues of viscera followed
by the glossy blackness of crows. Even today I shiver

when I hear the concussion of fireworks.
The woman I was with then used to visit the stables often
to touch the sturdy flanks of stallions
as if the muscles under the hide could steady her.
She never received the palomino her parents had promised
so settled for the ones others kept
horses with names like Columbia's Monarch, Blazer Glory,
Dum Dum, names both hyperbolic & ill suited she insisted.
Still, she stayed devoted to them,
sometimes sneaking among the stalls to talk to one or the other
nights the old fears returned

because the deep brown of a horse's eye,
the swell of it like a Buddha's belly, could be called compassion
if they made a crayon that rich & luscious.
Nights when her crying would wake me
I understood for the first time the words
inconsolable & futility & fidelity, which would be terrible names
for both colors & horses,
even the palest mare, the shade of the weak moon
rickety as a handsome cab making its way westward.

When I finally washed the sulfurous scent from my fingers,
when I no longer had a faith in a god of kindness,
I went out to the pasture
where a few yearlings grazed freely. In the distance
poplar trees swayed at a gallop.
Beyond them, even though I couldn't see her, I now know
that woman walked, making a decision
she insisted had nothing to do with me,
her hands on the strap of her bag as if gripping a bridle,
white, tight-knuckled.
From the stable I heard a loud whinny,
which sounded either like laughter or weeping, I couldn't decide,
& then the wind chimes she'd hung on our porch
or else that ever present tinkling in my ear.



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