By Darren Morris
News spread of my mother’s death
and a few came by
to ask how I was.
Take care, they said, take time to feel;
sorry for your loss.
But I wanted to tell them about this horse I knew—
my uncle’s filly, playful as a puppy when we were young,
who lipped my ears and nuzzled
my pockets for apples my uncle kept in his.
I visited his farm again after the funeral
where the body and the memory turned to ash
and the eyes were donated to the future as they had been in life.
He told me the story of how he had been the first to arrive
at my parents’ wedding and the first to leave.
I had to milk the cows for the second time that day, he said,
by way of some excuse
that he didn’t need to give,
as if some final obligation he might tender over her life.
But where was the horse, I wanted to know.
Out there, somewhere, he said. Watching us, no doubt.
Two years ago, a maniac came off the road and she went
to greet him at the fence as she would for anyone.
I should have taught her to be afraid.
She didn’t shy away even when he raised the axe
or brought it down against
the length of her muzzle,
like a sapling birch cleft and bloody from the blow.
It cost the crops that year to have her saved, if not restored.
Now she’ll keep company to no one, and I’ll not try to tame her again.
But there was one thing they shared.
I waited with him at dusk on his wood-slat porch.
When all the words like sparrows
went far as they could,
at the edge of the clearing, in the oily aura of a spectral terror.
Between the branches she seemed some bifurcated
stand-in for the real, as if
some varied layer of the same
unmitigated desire that rent, that tore her to pieces
between the worlds,
that amputated the massive heart-shaped core,
the stifle from the gaskin,
the withers from the mane.
Half-hidden and half-revealed, managing barely the insanity
but drawn back nevertheless to this maybe life
that beckoned as the dead sometimes do.
Slowly, cautiously, she approached us, quiet as a deer.
white as a stone ruin,
and the scar, the lawless bank of a hidden spring,
blindly coursing toward its sourceless source.
I held out what I’d been given to give.
That distance between me and the white mare’s remaining eye—
what we are made of most.
She kept it on me, wide as heaven, worried and wanting, flecked
with terror-filled joy.
The apple infinite
to which she bent and took.
For in that vanishing light,
it appeared as blue as grief.
Darren Morris is the Poetry Editor at Parhelion. His work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Best New Poets, The Missouri Review, New England Review, North American Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Raritan, The Southern Review, and others. He earned his BA from the University of Missouri and MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.