—after Philip Larkin
TO BRING THE HORSE HOME
Is all I’ve wanted past wanting
since I was six and delirious with fever,
an infinitive forged from a night
when giant ladybugs with toothpick
antennae patrolled my wicker nightstand.
Yes, I’ve been with horses since,
travelled illegally with them in trailers,
known certain landscapes only framed
by alert ears, and with one in particular,
spent whole afternoons with her big jaw
heavy on my shoulder. Still, I hatched
plots to bring a horse to the house, to ride
to school, to pasture one or even three
in the garden, shaded by that decorative
willow, which could have used a purpose.
But there were city bylaws in two languages,
and over the years, a dog, stray cats,
turtles, and many fish. They lived, they died.
It wasn’t the same. Fast-forward, I brought
the baby home in a molded bucket seat, but she
lacked difference, attuned as I was, checking
her twenty-four-seven. Now that she’s
grown, I’m reduced to walking city parks
with this corrosive envy of mounted police,
though I’m too old for the ropes test,
wouldn’t know what to do with a gun.
If there’s a second act, let me live
like the racetrack rat in a small room
up the narrow stairs from the stalls,
the horse shifting comfortably below,
browsing and chewing sweet hay.
A single bed with blanket the color
of factory-sweepings will suffice,
each day shaped to the same arc,
because days can only end when
the lock slides free on the stall’s
Dutch door, and I lead the horse in,
then muscle the corroded bolt shut.
That’s what days are for: I cannot rest
until the horse comes home.
—appeared previously with the Academy of American Poets