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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Three Horses and a Sorrow

 

 

The girl begins her duty to the horses

And walks out to the barn with a pail of water

To wash their hides.   Snow on her glasses

 

In the morning storm, she breathes

The straw and sky veiled by snow.

But her march is slow; she thinks of her father.

 

He assumes she can’t wash them like he does,

As if she were too afraid to rub the horses,

As if she’d rather curl inside her blankets.

 

No.   The pail drags in her arms, full of water.

She breathes about her straw-sorrow thick

And dusty, the barn’s air on her fogged glasses.

 

The water is warm, it steams, its surface glassy.

She’ll show him, bathe them well to spite her father,

Not break before the storm and run to him.

 

The steam-breath of horses betrays their presence.

Three of them, black as water.   She begins.   

The first horse stamps the ground, steams and stamps

 

The ground with her hooves like lead.   But

With soapy hands and cloth the girl leans across her—

Wild her musky hide, her stout frame like river rock—

 

And the horse calms.   She moves with and throughthe girl

Who wants to fall in her too, remove her glasses

And her body’s burdens, sing the pail of water.

 

Yes, the way she rubs is supernatural; unlike her father

She can find every inch, can somehow lull them

With her hands, her own weight.   And now they hum.

 

The hours pass, four together, a ceremony nameless.

Outside, the sky begins to shed its snow

And, in a trance, the girl begins to listen to the horses

 

Speak in deepened underwater whispers

Of things she has dreamed:  at last to leave her father

And this gloomy place, to ride through the scrub

 

To the shore of that dark lake, her feet in the grass,

Her horse lapping at slow wind-quivered pools …

Her feet shuffle the straw, but her father

 

Becomes mute.   "Take one of us by the neck

And ride—

Father will never know," so say the horses.

 

—Christopher John Adamson