After a Rainstorm, by Robert Wrigley

Because I have come to the fence at night,
the horses arrive also from their ancient stable.
They let me stroke their long faces, and I note
in the light of the now-merging moon

how they, a Morgan and a Quarter, have been
by shake-guttered raindrops
spotted around their rumps and thus made
Appaloosas, the ancestral horses of this place.

Maybe because it is night, they are nervous,
or maybe because they too sense
what they have become, they seem
to be waiting for me to say something

to whatever ancient spirits might still abide here,
that they might awaken from this strange dream,
in which there are fences and stables and a man
who doesn’t know a single word they understand.

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Evolution of Danger, by Tina Chang

I’m the one in the back of the bar, drinking cachaça,
fingering the lip of the glass. Every dream has left
me now as I wait for the next song: Drag and drum.
They’ll be no humming in this room, only fragrance
of sweat and fuel. To make the animal go. To make it
Hungry. After that there is Thirst.

*

I danced in the border town until it wasn’t decent,
until I was my grandest self hitchhiking, my slim arm
out like the stalk of a tired flower, waving, silver rings
catch the headlights. I’m not sure what I wanted
as we rode on his motorcycle where Chinese signs blurred
past, flashing red, then blue, and I breathed in the scent
of fish and plum. My hands found their way to his pockets
as I rode without helmet, careening toward the cemetery,
the moon dripping light onto avenues of tombstones.

*

If the Tunisian black market was hidden within a maze.
If I couldn’t find my way, I asked. The wide eyes
of the boy who led me to the Mediterranean Sea.
If I took his kindness as a version of truth and stood
posing for a photo in front of bicycles leaned
against the sand colored walls. If I arrived
at the center of the market, women in black muslin
sold glazed tile on blankets. When I bent down,
the men surrounded me. If they asked for money
I had nothing. If they threw their bills around me,
I recall the purple and red faces crushed on paper.

*

Attempting to cross the border with no passport,
no money. The contents had fallen out of her
pocket as she ran for the bus. She made promises
to the officers, bared an inner thigh until their eyes
grew wide, until they stamped a sheet of official paper
with tri-colored emblems. The man’s fist
was large though it twitched as he pounded
the stamp onto the translucent page. The little
money she had inside an orange handkerchief tied
to her hair, coins rolling to the ground as she fled.

*

Perhaps it was chance that I ended on the far side
of the earth. Atrocities of our entanglement not on the bed
but beside it. Using our mouths as tools for betterment,
for seduction, for completion. The vertebra twists
into a question mark to conform to another’s.

In the Patanal, the cowboys steadied the horses
in the barn, the animal’s labored breathing, the sigh
as the coarse brush worked through the mane.
The owner’s daughter learning to move her hips
as she practiced her samba before the steaming pot,
and radio clicking, and lid drumming.

Of the men I’ve known, you were the most steady,
reliable one near the window killing mosquitoes,
gathering cool water to press to my scalp. One-sided
heart I was then. Selfish one. I wanted everything.
Macaws flew past in quick flock, pushing outward
toward the earth’s scattering filament and mystery.

*

I don’t ask myself questions anymore
(but it is not a question you ask yourself),
rather it was born, rather that the statement
was peeled like a film of dirt, (rather
the words were meaning) wrapped inside
a scarf, stuffed into my carry bag, rather
that the camera caught all of it
(the hunter and the kill).

When danger itself was restless,
(it had four legs and it ran with speed
& vengeance). Though there was
no purpose, (though the past had nothing
to do with the chase now). This grand state
(pumped from its own engine of blood),
centuries of evolution, first as a red-eyed
embryo, then reptile, then mammal, then
man, pure racing, push of muscle and tendon,
the tongue loose and dragging as the body
made its way forward. Each time more
powerful, a new version of waking until
the species grew great wings and lifted.

The Cloister, by William Matthews

The last light of a July evening drained
into the streets below: My love and I had hard
things to say and hear, and we sat over
wine, faltering, picking our words carefully.

The afternoon before I had lain across
my bed and my cat leapt up to lie
alongside me, purring and slowly
growing dozy. By this ritual I could

clear some clutter from my baroque brain.
And into that brief vacancy the image
of a horse cantered, coming straight to me,
and I knew it brought hard talk and hurt

and fear. How did we do? A medium job,
which is well above average. But because
she had opened her heart to me as far
as she did, I saw her fierce privacy,

like a gnarled, luxuriant tree all hung
with disappointments, and I knew
that to love her I must love the tree
and the nothing it cares for me.

Winter Letter, by Huu Thinh

The letter I wrote you had smeared ink,
But the bamboo walls are thin, and fog kept leaking through.
On this cold mountain, I cannot sleep at night.
By morning, a reed stalk can fade.

White snow on my thin blanket.
The stove glows red for lunch, but the mountain remains hazy.
Ink freezes inside my pen–
I hold it over the glowing coals and it melts into a letter.

Blocking the wind, a tree with purple roots trembles.
Corn seeds shrivel underground.
On days when my comrades are on assignment,
I miss them, but. . .there is an extra blanket.

The cold rooster crows lazily in a hoarse voice.
We beat on the cups, the bowls, to ease the strangeness.
The mountain hides hundreds of ores in its bosom.
I try, but can’t find enough vegetables for a meal.

The rice often comes early, the letters late.
The radio is on all night to make the bunker seem less desolate.
So many years without women,
I mistake the sound of horse hooves for your footsteps.

Gathering clouds often invite me to dream;
knowing so, you keep the light glowing late.
Wishing I had some scent of soapberry
So rocks would soften, the mountains grow warm.

Meo Vac, 3/82

The Truth, by Carl Phillips

And now,
the horse is entering
the sea, and the sea

holds it.

Where are we?

Behind us,
the beach,
yes, its

scrim,
yes, of
grass, dune, sky—Desire

goes by, and though
it’s wind of course making
the grass bend,

unbend, we say
it’s desire again, passing
us by, souveniring us with
gospel the grass, turned
choir, leans into,

Coming—
Lord, soon.

Because
it still matters, to say something. Like:
the heart isn’t

really breakable,
not in the way you mean, any more
than a life shatters,

—which is what
dropped shells can do, or a bond sworn to,
remember, once

couldn’t, a wooden boat between
unmanageable wave and rock or,
as hard, the shore.

The wooden boat is
not the heart,
the wave the flesh,
the rock the soul—

and if we thought so, we have merely been
that long
mistaken.

Also,
about the shore: it doesn’t
mean all trespass
is forgiven, if nightly
the sand is cleared of
any sign
we were here.

It doesn’t equal that whether
we were here or not
matters,
doesn’t—

Waves, because
so little of the world, even
when we say that it has
shifted, has:

same voices,
ghosts, same
hungers come,
stop coming—
Soon—

How far the land can be found to
be, and
of a sudden,
sometimes. Now—
so far from rest,
should rest be needed—

Will it drown?

The horse, I mean.

And I—who do not ride, and
do not swim

And would that I had never climbed
its back

And love you too

Ruin, by Seth Abramson

and backwards go
the men into the garden, and what is it
herding them
but a haircut and a vacuous look they had
when they were twenty,
which earned its horns twice over
if they had the same
cut and look
when they were thirty. Forget about great

men, and soon the great forgetting
will be over, leaving all that is left all over.
Forward go long sleeves, a longitude,
and shame.
What is herding them
you are. All over the world, curtains drew
and obscured lush portages
the world over, and there were some sighs

but mostly it was better than continuing
to want better. Ponies cannot love
children. But O, those ponies. Those ponies.